The French clarinettist Louis Cahuzac was one of the giants
of his instrument. The Languedoc-born musician premiered numerous
important works during his long career and he was especially
associated with the performance and propagation of the music
of such as d’Indy, Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Hindemith,
Stravinsky, Ravel, and Debussy as well as Brahms and Berg. The
list is vast. His recordings of Mozart and of Nielsen are long
established classics of the gramophone.
He also composed, and ‘adapted’ music for his own
instrument, and this disc brings together both genres. It’s
notable that almost everything was published posthumously. He
took the Concertino from the Quintet of Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847),
a natty piece of recycling, and refashioned it for clarinet
and piano. Written in 1895 it alternates genial phrasing with
warm limpidity reserving virtuoso fireworks for the finale.
One of his most evocative and delightful effusions is the compact
Pastorale cévenole which is heard here - luxury
casting - in its two versions, one for clarinet and piano and
the other for clarinet and strings. I prefer more the gauzy
introduction enshrined in the latter version. There are charming
echo effects, rich roulades and a confident cadential passage.
Its ABA form is simple but effective.
Arlequin for solo clarinet dates from 1958, as capricious
as it sounds, and full of Comedia dell’Arte fun. I wonder
if the excellent Philippe Cuper has listened to Cahuzac’s
own 1948 recording of the Cantilène as the tempo
is identical. It’s a beautiful little work, and demonstrates
Cahuzac’s gracious lyric impulses. Cahuzac also recorded
Variations sur un air du pays d’Oc, though I’ve
never heard it. The theme is not unlike that of Away in a
Manger, to British ears, music composed in 1895. It’s
a highly effective piece. We also hear a subtle and demanding
Etude, a Fantaisie that alternates faster and
slower sections with skill, and finally two Sonatas which, liked
the Concertino, are taken from the work of another composer,
in this case Etienne Gebauer (1777-1823). These are two-clarinet
duets - Philippe Olivier Deveaux joins Cuper - and are good
natured, sprightly pieces that do, it’s true, somewhat
overstay their welcome, though I’m sure they’re
fun for the clarinettists.
I shouldn’t overlook the sensitive pianism of Christine
Lagniel in a number of these pieces. As noted, Cuper pays fine
homage to one of the masters of the instrument and the sound
quality is excellent. There are some terrific photographs in
the elegantly produced bi-lingual booklet (English/French).
There’s a fabulous colour one of Cahuzac recording in
a studio the year before his death whilst sitting on a large
russet coloured box.