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Clarinet Works
(b. 1971)

Three Preludes for clarinet and piano (1990) [4.30]
Quasi Kwazi I, for clarinet solo (1997) [3.05]
Quasi Kwasi II, for clarinet solo (1997) [6.03]
Quasi Kwasi III, for clarinet solo (1998) [6.36]
Isang YUN (1917-1995)
Riul, for clarinet and piano (1968)[ 18.05]
Dawid JARZYŃSKI (b. 1984)
Partita for clarinet solo (2007) [14.17]
Paul PATTERSON (b. 1947)
Conversations, for clarinet and piano (1974) [13.05]
Dawid Jarzyński (clarinet); Anna Czaicka (piano)
rec. details not given
DUX 0622 [65.43]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a challenging recital of recent music for solo clarinet or clarinet and piano. The performances are superb and each of the works is interesting in its own way. The disc can be confidently recommended to the adventurous collector of contemporary music or anyone with a special interest in the clarinet.
Marcel Chyrzyński’s Three Preludes date from 1990 when the composer was still a student in Katowice. They reminded me of Lutosławski’s early Dance Preludes for the same instruments, though there is less folk influence. The first piece is songlike with a mellifluous, flowing accompaniment. The second is a slower, meditative piece and the third acts as a finale. It is pleasant, melodious music containing passages of real beauty.
The three pieces entitled Quasi Kwazi – I don’t pretend to understand what the titles signify – are tougher nuts. They are unaccompanied, so the composer has to work hard to hold the listener’s attention. He is successful on the whole. The most interesting piece is perhaps the second, whose long, held notes create a sense of stillness and allow the player to demonstrate his remarkable pianissimo attack followed by crescendo. The third piece ends with the solo instrument surprisingly sketching out a major key cadence.
Riul, by Korean composer Isang Yun, was composed in 1968 when the composer was in prison, detained, apparently, for political reasons. The work, quoting the booklet notes, expresses “zest for life, despair and protest…hopelessness and resignation”. The title is translated as “melody” and the style is said to reproduce that of a Korean folk instrument, the piri. Typical of this instrument and the music conceived for it are held notes followed by rapid runs, trills and other ornaments, and there is certainly much of this in the piece. There is drama too, though finding one’s way around its eighteen minutes is not always easy. There is no rhythmic pulse and the piano accompaniment is generally harshly dissonant. A few slides and passages of flutter tonguing serve to underline how rarely the composers on this disc resort to unusual techniques in their clarinet writing. Difficult though the work is to listen to and to follow, it is music of stature and integrity.
Dawid Jarzyński is a composer as well as a clarinettist, and his Partita is the next work on the disc. In five movements, this work ostensibly follows the baroque pattern. A striking Prelude is followed by a minuet and trio complete with repeats, though the trio is actually a cadenza. The third movement, which creeps in from the very edge of audibility, is a more extended cadenza requiring the utmost in virtuoso technique. The fourth movement is announced as a sarabande, but is in fact a series of cadences, ingeniously requiring the player to produce two notes simultaneously, a discord followed each time by its resolution, and finally closing on a bare octave. The last movement is a gigue with an other-worldly middle section. Livelier music returns but the final note is held and dies away literally to nothing. The work is coherent, does not outstay its welcome and the composer provides the listener with a good, clear trail to follow. I’m not sure how much one would continue to find in repeated hearings, but I’m keen to go back and give it a try.
It’s probably just chance that the most immediately striking music on the disc should be by the only composer whose name I already knew. The title of Paul Patterson’s piece might lead one to expect music made up primarily of exchanges, but in these conversations the clarinet speaks alone only rarely. The first movement is stormy and dissonant, with a much calmer, songlike middle section whose chordal piano accompaniment might almost have been written by Debussy. One is struck straight away by the music’s sense of purpose, perhaps because the themes are more immediately identifiable than in the other works. An atmospheric slow movement leads to a highly rhythmic, syncopated and dramatic finale.
The performances are all outstanding. Dawid Jarzyński boasts a phenomenal technique which is put to considerable use in all the works on the disc. His is not a particularly beautiful sound, but then again the repertoire places him squarely in the exposed upper register rather than in the woody depths of the instrument. He plays with not the slightest trace of vibrato, underlining the slightly bloodless quality I usually find in clarinet music. His accompanist has much less to do, but she acquits herself splendidly. The recording is very close, bringing not only the player’s breathing into earshot but also the rattling of the instrument’s keys. This, and the rather relentless nature of much of the music, means that this is perhaps not a disc to listen to at a single sitting. Most of the insert notes have been written by the clarinettist himself, and are probably very informative, but the translations are such that one would offer one’s services if only one knew how to speak Polish.
William Hedley

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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