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Italian label Sheva certainly keep Christopher Howell busy:
in March 2010, while he was recording this chamber disc with
Alessandro Travaglini, he was also in the studio recording some
of Charles Stanford's Irish folksong arrangements with flautist
Gilberto Fornito (see review)
and in a nearby church performing Samuel Wesley's organ music
Sheva's production values came in for some sharp criticism in
the latter of those reviews and elsewhere, but this recording
thankfully gives relatively little cause for complaint. Sheva's
producers' inexplicable tendency to chop off still resonating
sound at the ends of tracks is still an issue on this release,
but is rarely exasperating and does not affect every piece.
True, there is an inconspicuous editing join about halfway through
track three, and a more obvious one almost at the end of track
four. There is, moreover, a more serious quality control issue
at the end of the slow movement of the arrangement of Rossini's
Sonata no.3, but generally speaking the listener is able to
focus on - and unavoidably enjoy - this warm-hearted, clarinet-based
tribute to Rossini by his contemporaries, who give some of the
Italian master's great opera and, yes, choral tunes a charming
and sometimes cheeky makeover.
The programme is rounded out with a recent arrangement of Rossini's
Third Sonata for Strings, followed by his only Clarinet Sonata,
a short but sweet four-movement work which he preferred to label
a Fantaisie on account of the structural liberties it takes.
Rossini's writing is so witty, so mouth-wateringly dazzling,
this piece ought to finish off every clarinet recital by law.
Alessandro Travaglini gives a commendable, sparkling performance,
particularly in the two virtuosic pieces by Cavallini, one of
which, Fiori Rossiniani ('Rossinian Flowers'), is a harum-scarum
farrago of Rossini melodies that deservedly gives its name to
the CD. But best of all is Liverani's warm but outrageous skinning
of Rossini's Stabat Mater, in which Travaglini does justice
to the music of a clarinet master greatly admired by Rossini
himself. Travaglini is very ably and always enthusiastically
accompanied throughout by Christopher Howell.
The booklet notes are brief but adequate, written with affection
by Howell, and the biographical notes ample. The track listing
on the back cover of the disc is the only one there is, but
gives enough detail. With a generous overall timing, this disc
adds up to a fairly appealing package, most obviously for clarinet
fans, marked down only for the handful of production lapses
which, surely, Sheva will soon put right.
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