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
The disc begins with its title track, Desertscape
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
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.
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
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,
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.