This disc contains five works for clarinet by Czech composers from the twentieth century. These are performed by young emerging talents Irvin Venyš and Martin Kasík.
Josef Palenicek’s neo-classical Partita Piccolo
contains Bach-like toccata movements, as well as a Shostakovich-inspired DSCH motif. The first movement is lively and full of energy, while the second movement is slow and broodingly introspective, with moments of unexpected drama. Thematic material links the three movements to create a satisfying sense of unity. In the final movement, the material is heard as a quick jig at the opening, before the mood relaxes. This is an enjoyable work with the right balance between gritty energy and calm thoughtfulness, and a real gem in the repertoire.
opens with gently flowing melodic lines which are heard in different guises and transformations through this continuous three movement work. Martinu has become known as one of the major Czech composers of the twentieth century, fusing a folk-influenced style with twentieth century harmony. This piece has a particularly enjoyable second movement, with slow-paced melodic simplicity set against gentle undulations before transforming seamlessly into the brighter third movement material.
Like Palenicek, Miloslav Istvan’s style also draws on music from earlier eras – Bach’s influence can be felt in the contrapuntal passages. Folk music also has a commanding influence, and the music has strong tonal lines and simple, effective melodies. The slow movement provides a moment of quiet repose, and the final movement is light-hearted and cheerful.
The unaccompanied Three Studies
by Karel Husa were written as test pieces for the Prague Spring competition in 2008, and as such provide both musical and technical challenges for the performer. Venyš takes the opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of the clarinet, with extremes of dynamic and impressively expressive playing. This is a dramatic and thoroughly engaging performance.
The disc ends with Viktor Kalabis’s Suita
, another three movement work which contains a range of musical expression. A relatively uncomplicated work, the music has charm and a sense of natural flow. Strong rhythms punctuate the final movement, which, combined with repeated motivic ideas, bring to mind the music of Stravinsky.
Throughout this disc, these two young performers play with intelligence and maturity, presenting music from their native country in the best possible way. Already forging impressive careers for themselves, I look forward to hearing more from Venyš and Kasík. The repertoire heard here is of a consistently high standard, and all deserve to be incorporated fully into the clarinet’s repertoire.