The Maltese composer
Charles Camilleri has achieved a clutch
of CDs since the early 1990s. There
were two (presumably unavailable now)
on Unicorn including a particularly
valuable collection of three piano concertos.
The Four Greek Songs
are florid, exotic, wild and heady
with perfumed breezes from the Middle
East. They date from Camilleri's years
in London in the late 1950s. The
Three Folk Songs from Malta date
from 1971 and were originally for violin
and piano. These are slightly more thorny
than their folk counterparts of two
decades earlier. The first song in the
later set ends in a defining Gershwin-like
swoop ascending way up to the top of
the clarinet's register. The modernity
of this sequence links with the approachable
avant-garderie of Berio's Folksongs.
The 9.11 Dirge reflects
the composer's reaction to those appalling
events. This is done in profundity and
in the depths of despair, with screeching
clarinet offering the dissonant keys
to disillusion. Originally written for
bass clarinet and vibraphone the Duo
Sonata is in three truculent but
dissonantly lyrical movements. The 1957
Divertimento No. 2 is again dissonant
and jazzy although well in touch with
lyrical continuity. The lovely second
movement is a prize: more pastoral singer
than bluesman but certainly ‘bluesy’.
The beguiling Shomyo actually
sounds more English than it does Tibetan
or Mongolian … but then it is pentatonic.
In its 5.22 it never sounds like Hovhaness.
Discontinuity on the other hand is the
key in the Second Clarinet Trio of
which it seems similar in structure
to the Piano Trio. The clarinet
shrieks and flitters while the piano
rushes and gibbers. While folksong returns
in the Libero third movement
it is kaleidoscopically polarised and
subjected to transformational deconstruction.
Happy-ish voices can be heard in the
allegro moderato but the
casing and manner is modern: dissonance
is not discouraged. Listen to the malcontented
contribution of the cello - almost a
This is Meridian's
second Camilleri disc. The first involving
Campbell and Jacobson again is CDE 84407.
It included Trio New York, Divertimento
No. 2, Sarajevo 99, Tibet,
Sonatina, Orbits and American
Portraits variously for two clarinets,
clarinet trio and clarinet and piano.
Camilleri is an intriguing
composer whose embracing of modern techniques
has produced a rewarding synthesis with
his early and continuing association
with Mediterranean folksong. It is time
we heard more substantial orchestral
works from Camilleri.
see also review
by Hubert Culot