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.
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
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.
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
followed by crescendo
. The third piece ends with
the solo instrument surprisingly sketching out a major
, 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
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.
see also review by Jonathan Woolf