Despite fierce competition in some quarters, this CD is well placed to win
'Daftest Cover of the Year' award, although the jester's hat in the top
corner suggests a deliberate tongue in cheek from label and ensemble alike.
Bugs and Other Species' takes its name from the opening piece by Dora
yet contrary to expectations set up by the cover, insects play no further
in Ensemble Clarinettissimo's programme: no transcriptions for clarinet trio
of Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' or Vaughan Williams' Wasps
not even the old Spanish corrido
Instead, a selection of pieces averaging four minutes, many of which
are by composers whose names will be unfamiliar to most. Illumination must
be sought elsewhere however, even with regard to what century some of them
originate in: the foldout digipak-style CD comes without a booklet.
German-English notes, such as they are, are printed straight onto the glossy
card. The English version is rendered by a non-native and phraseology and
sometimes even translation itself tends towards the clumsy or ungainly, once
or twice obscuring meaning: "every cemetery unites the enemies of life".
A further possible irritation is the affected heading: 'What Would
Music Be Without Its Niches? Boring'. Such a remark makes little sense to
someone whose tastes are entirely orthodox or popular - the niches
themselves are then boring or even unacknowledged. Exciting music would
still be exciting if no niches existed. What is a niche anyway? - the term
is undefined here. Of the fifteen composers who have "taken their seat",
according to the notes, Mozart and J S Bach cannot by any stretch of the
imagination be considered 'niche'.
To more concrete matters: Austrian trio Stefan Neubauer, Thomas
Obermüller and Michael Domanig, collectively known as Ensemble
Clarinettissimo - no relation to Clarinettissimo Austria, five
clarinettists and a drummer! - are all virtuosos, as the opening title track
makes quite clear. On the whole, however, most items are not particularly
demanding, though the Ensemble do still coax an admirable range of sounds
and emotions from their instruments. Three clarinets, in expert hands like
theirs, have a tonal, technical and dynamic range that few other
'mono-trios' can surpass.
Insects, Bugs and Other Species is an unfortunate choice not just
for the album title, but for the programme starters, as it is a piece quite
different from most of the rest. Free-form, dissonant, perhaps even
aleatory, it certainly stands out beside the Hummel the follows. Even
Wilhelm Spuller's pretentious Super Mario's World Zwanzigelf, with its added
hand-slapping and finger-clicking, is basically tuneful and pulse-driven.
Until the final track, only Wysocki's Etude comes fairly close to Cojocaru
Wladimir Pantchev's recital-wrapping Wettspiel is an extraordinary
workout for all three players, yet despite its brilliance, it re-poses the
question initially raised by the Cojocaru - who is this album really for?
The label, Paladino trading as Orlando, misguidedly files it under
'Crossover'. It is not that at all - there is nothing half-baked about the
musicianship on display, whether performer, composer or arranger.
Clarinettissimo's programme actually has plenty of variety, both across the
centuries and styles and in emotional terms. Even some Alpine yodellers! Yet
there is not enough here for art music aficionados, whilst on the other hand
the first and last tracks, one fifth of the total running time, are very
unlikely to speak to those wanting something a bit more 'easy listening'.
Contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk
Insects, Bugs and other Species [8:31]
Johann Friedrich HUMMEL
Allegro (from: Trio in B flat minor) [6:36]
3 Miniatures [4:46]
Menuett (from: Premier Divertissement Suisse, for three clarinets, op.10/1)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Menuett (from: Divertimento K. Anh. 229/2) [4:07]
Non Più Andrai, Farfallone Amoroso [3:10]
Super Mario's World Zwanzigelf [7:57]
Johann Sebastian BACH
Contrapunctus Inversus a 3 [3:10]
Wolfgang R. KUBZIEK
Smooth Fix Mix [3:59]
Alpenländische Jodler [2:48]
Etude, op 60/17 [3:02]
Recordare (sic.) [3:47]
The Easy Winners [2:20]