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CD & Download: CDBaby

Desertscape: New Music For Clarinet
Keith Merrill BRADSHAW  (b.1961)
(1999) [18:25]
Jeffery HOOVER (b.1959)
(2007) [7:09]
Robert FRUEHWALD (b.1957)
(2003) [3:52]
Jeffrey HOOVER
(1997) [5:33]
Andy and Me
(2006) [7:30]
Michael Dean (clarinet); Tyson Wunderlich (piano)
rec. January, March & May 2008, Shuck Recital Hall, Southeast Missouri State University River Campus, Cape Gurardeau, Missouri. DDD
No label or number [42:29]
Experience Classicsonline

This independent CD was recorded at Southeast Missouri State University, where Michael Dean is Associate Professor of Clarinet and Saxophone. It features recent works for clarinet, piano and electronics. A well presented disc, the sound quality matches the impeccable art-work of the cover. There is a lovely clarity to the sound and the clarinet is well balanced with its accompanying instruments.

The disc begins with its title track, Desertscape by Keith Merrill Bradshaw. Commissioned by Dean, the piece describes a day in the desert of southern Utah, from dawn till dusk. Opening with a poignant solo clarinet line, the music gradually develops through the movements, becoming gradually more energetic into the Desert Dance, with its repeated rhythms and flowing energy. The wonderfully evocative opening of the third movement, Desert Deluge is particularly enjoyable, with imaginative use of the piano to create some dazzling effects. The final movement returns to the stillness of the opening, with the clarinet often soaring high in its register.

September by Jeffrey Hoover makes use of synthesized sounds to accompany the clarinet. These sounds reminded me of 1980s electronic keyboard sounds, as created by Vangelis and others. I am unconvinced about the fusion of the solo clarinet into this sound-world, but the solo line has an engaging twisting melody and is performed with expressive phrasing and a well-rounded tone.

After the reverb of Hoover’s music, the dryness of sound in Robert Fruehwald’s Terpsichore is an interesting contrast. This is a highly convincing piece, with a strong structure and jaunty rhythmic patterns. An obvious homage to Michael Praetorius, the Renaissance language fuses well with Fruehwald’s own, providing an enjoyable addition to the repertoire.

Another Hoover track follows, this time the altogether more convincing Dreaming, which is a lyrical ballad for clarinet and piano. A calm and sonorous work, this has a contrasting central section before the return of the opening material.

The final work on the disc is Andy and Me, by Fruehwald, which makes use of delay lines and loops to create a rich tapestry of clarinet sound. A successful work with a sense of dialogue between parts, this has a light-hearted feel and a coherent sense of unity between the electronics and the solo line. A central section uses key clicks to create percussive effects before the clarinet returns to an evolving accompaniment line. This is a work with a sense of humour, which is well constructed and effective, and a good illustration that contemporary composers don’t always take themselves too seriously!

Throughout the disc, the playing is consistent, with Dean producing a direct and well controlled sound. This is a confident recording of music which was written for this enterprising performer.

Carla Rees 



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