This is a feast
for those addicted to the liquid legato of the clarinet. Or,
as they used to say in the days of moustachioed heroes of the
instrument, clarionet or clarinette. The hero here is Cristo
Barrios and his accomplished partner is Clinton Cormany. Together
they put forward a largely delightful collection. It ranges,
seemingly ambling, from Vaughan Williams to Caccini to Duparc,
thence to Schumann and then back to Ravel, before we suddenly
encounter Cole Porter, Strauss and end with Obradors. The programme
ranges from the nineteenth to the early-ish twentieth centuries
though with the Caccini – programmed between VW and Sibelius
(eh?) – as a sop to Aria antiche. In fact programming
is quixotic to say the least and I rather got the impression
that this recital could have followed in any order whatsoever.
Still, that’s the prerogative of the performers I suppose –
or Divine Art.
The disc’s sub-title
is A recital of art-song in transcription. These arrangements
are faithful to the original songs but we should in all candour
fight to resist the temptation to judge the transcriptions too
closely. It’s the nature of the transcriptive beast that the
clarinet will tend to smooth out the more peppery moments in
these songs. Thus that Caccini becomes just slightly too withdrawn
and mellow. And the de Falla invariably loses something of its
tang and taste – there’s not quite enough bite. Which is not
to complain of the performances, which are very sensitive indeed,
more to make the obvious point that the clarinet is sometimes
an imperfect medium for this kind of thing.
The Ravel, perhaps
surprisingly, comes off quite well but the Debussy, however
attractively played, lacks a certain intimacy. The Barrios-Cormany
duo relishes the teasing opening flourish of the Porter; then
Cormany turns on the vamp and ragtime and Barrios broadens his
tone. They find the romantic chanson of Poulenc’s Les chemins
de l'amour very much to their liking and deal sensitively
with Fauré’s Les berceaux, which in transcription is
often simply played too loudly. Not here. The Obradors ends
the recital with a ruffle of Franco-Spanishry.
Given that the programme
is predicated on song it’s sensible of Divine Art to give us
the texts – the originals and English translations where necessary.