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Isola Romántica
Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)

Grande Serenade Concertante for Clarinet, Horn, Cello and Piano Op.126
Gustav JENNER (1865-1920)
Trio in E flat for Clarinet, Horn and Piano
Frederic DUVERNOY (1765-1838)

Sonata No. 1 for Horn and Cello
Sonata No. 2 for Horn and Cello
Ensemble Isola – Radovan Cavallin (clarinet) Jose Zarzo (horn) Carlos Rivero (cello) and Juan Francisco Parra (piano)
Recorded at Sala Gabriel Rodó (Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra Rehearsal Room). No date.


There’s some unusual programming here but the principals of the Gran Canaria Philharmonic have gone for Beethoven-inspired variety (Czerny) leavened by Brahmsian gravity and mellowness (his one-time composition student, Gustav Jenner) by way of French sonata virtuosity in the shape of the works of hornist supreme, Frederic Duvernoy. It’s also a good way of creating a worthwhile programme that allows the members of Ensemble Isola to showcase their talents and enthusiasms.

We all know that the boy Czerny studied with Beethoven and that he remained a resolute upholder of Beethovenian musical principles. But I think you’ll still get a jolt when you hear the opening of his Grande Serenade Concertante, sounding for all the world like a slight reworking of the opening of the Emperor Concerto. That apart this is a cannily crafted and typically espressivo work, introducing each instrument in turn and little chains of cadential passages – predominantly bright, lithe and cheerful but with moments of depth (such as the Adagio). The Theme is gravely spacious and there are plenty of opportunities for each instrument to star. Variation 2 is particularly jovial, whilst Variation 4 opens with some fugato and gets brassily confident. The rather pensive horn and clarinet exchanges in the Sixth Variation are also delightfully realised and the piano leads in the last of the variations, where there’s some determined flexing of pianistic sinew.

Gustav Jenner was Brahms’ student for seven years. Born in Keitum in 1865 he studied in Kiel but found his way to Vienna and to Brahms, on whose recommendation he was to become Music Director at Marburg University. The Trio, written before 1897, is in four movements and bathes in Jenner’s Brahmsian inheritance. Both melodically and thematically it comes close to the formal procedures Brahms used, especially so in the piano writing. This dependence, or absorption, is occasionally relieved by moments of trenchancy – not least in the Moderato opening movement – though one has to admire the construction and idiomatic writing. Jenner was also good at changeability, at shifting moods, but comes closest and most explicitly Brahmsian in the presto third movement, a Scherzo with a nice slow trio section.

Duvernoy was a Parisian horn virtuoso who rose to become first horn of the Imperial Chapel under Napoleon. Soloist, composer, pedagogue, and writer of important treatises he shows his stuff in these two slim three movement sonatas. The Second really is a concise slither (it lasts barely four minutes – shades of Rued Langgaard) but the First sports a pithy Mozartian flourish and is expertly crafted – as one would expect.

If the programme appeals, and it’s certainly eclectic, then the performances by Ensemble Isola are attractive and spirited.

Jonathan Woolf

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