Carolyn Beck’s name is punningly to the fore in Crystal’s
latest instalment. There are a number of premiere recordings
here, not least of those works dedicated to her, and she
brings real powers of colour, rhythmic vivacity and technical
armoury to bear to communicate each piece’s particular
qualities and character.
Shapiro’s Of Breath and Touch
tests registral strengths and thrives
on exploring the bassoon’s compass -
it’s at its best in the plentiful lyric
moments where the rather impressionistic
piano harmonies makes a strong mark.
HerDeep - she’s the only composer
to be represented by two works - features
a pre-recorded track, though it’s rather
less immediately engaging than its companion.
Previn’s sonata is a jaunty piece. It comes on like
Prokofiev meets Françaix with its insouciant Peter and
the Wolf moments in the opening movement and its rompy
finale. It’s a nimble, witty, immediately and unselfconsciously
fine addition to the repertoire. The finale is the high
point. The notes refer to “Bird and Monk” as influences,
which be hard for those not versed in Bebop masters but
Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk are so wide of the mark
as to be wrong-headed. The Reveille tints of Previn’s finale
are Monty Alexander out of Sonny Rollins, as they say on
the turf, and the marriage of jazz and classical elements
works well, to the advantage of both - as one would expect
The senior composer here is Michal Spisak who died over
forty years ago. His Duetto Concertante for bassoon and
viola - Kira Blumberg - is elegantly contrapuntal with
a pawky humour in its Allegro second movement with plenty
of Stravinsky and motor rhythms at play; strongly Parisian.
By contrast Zorman’s 1984 A Grizzly’s Dream is a
tougher nut, rather scabrous and atonal. Its individual
movements, such as Sunday in the park with Pooh, with
their promise of Sondheim-meets-Disney are almost comically
and obviously deliberately at variance with the music.
I much preferred Marcel Bitsch’s Concertino with its impressionism-meets-Rachmanovian
moments; there’s a splendidly sinuous interplay between
instruments even if Dolores Stevens’s piano is relatively
recessed, a characteristic of the entire disc. The title
track comes last and once more there’s a pre-recorded track.
This time it’s full of attractive percussive sonorities
and Beck plays it with great vitality and wit.
Try the Previn, the Chamberlain and the Spisak first,
then the attractively amorphous Shapiro Of Breath and
Touch and then sample at will. Good new(ish) repertoire
- confidently performed, reasonably recorded.