Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b.1954)
Babadag (2010) [6:51]
Ondrej KUKAL (b.1964)
Clarinettino Op.11 (1994) [13:28] ą
Jan DUŠEK (b.1985)
Tomaš PÁLKA (b.1978)
Metafolkphoses (2011) [8:54]
Jan KUCERA (b.1977)
Birth (arr. clarinet and quartet 2011) [6:18]
Alan SHULMAN (1915-2002)
Rendezvous for clarinet and strings (1946) [4:50]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Oblivion (1982) [4:31] ą
Oliver NELSON (1932-1975)
Stolen Moments [4:10]
Irvin Venyš (clarinet); Epoque Quartet; David Pavelka (bass) ą
rec. December 2011, Martinu Hall, Prague Academy of Performing Arts
ARCO DIVA UP 0147-2 131 [56:25]
Just to be clear, yes, that is an underscore in the disc’s title. It’s the clarinettist’s Christian name before the underscore and the name of the quartet after it. Modishness aside, this eight-track disc presents a handful of works by Czech and Slovak composers across two generations and adds three works from the Americas: North (Alan Shulman and Oliver Nelson) and South (Piazzolla).
I’m glad to see Arco Diva continuing its laudable championing of the works of Sylvie Bodorová. Her Babadag for clarinet and string quartet (originally string orchestra) was written in 2010 and was informed by the Gypsy music she heard as a child in Šašov in Slovakia and by Romanian music. More than most of her contemporaries, she draws across a range of specific folkloric inspirations. The clarinet offers a melismatic monologue and the quartet provides rather stylised support as well as percussive effects on the body of the instruments. As ever she has crafted a sonically eventful, compact piece.
Ondrej Kukal’s Clarinettino exists in a version for string orchestra as well as string quintet (as performed here) with the addition of the bass. Written in 1994, it has a playful 1930s feel, and is a touch French, with a definite Les Six element about it, though it moves in more intense and expressive waters too, and the clarinet leads the dance excitingly. Railway-sounding rhythms are provided by Jan Dušek in Meanwhile and so too are quick vistas in this malleable, changeable work. Tomáš Pálka draws on the folk heritage of Southern Moravia and Slovakia, as did Vítezslav Novák a century before him, for the racily titled Metafolkphoses in which the clarinet sings ripely and melodies are stated or subject to contemporary exploration. Of much more minimalist stamp is Birth by Jan Kucera which was written in 2010 but expanded for quartet and the clarinet of Irvin Venyš. It’s an exciting and compact piece but aside from its fillips I can’t really say that the clarinet adds much.
The foreign nationals make up the remainder of the programme. Alan Shulman’s Rendezvous was written for Benny Goodman who premiered it with the Stuyvesant Quartet. Their 1946 World premiere, a radio broadcast performance, has been preserved and is available on Bridge 9137. The Epoque Quartet is less incisive than the Stuyvesant, and less explicitly expressive: their cooler reserve is another approach to take. Hardly anyone is as personalised in tone as Goodman, even when, as here, he turned longhair.
The melancholia at the heart of Piazzolla’s Oblivion is duly located, and the jazzy clarinet roulades are nice. Finally Stolen Moments by the man a trifle formally called Oliver Edward Nelson. Omit the Edward and you get the composer and arranger of many a jazz classic. I like the walking bass effect, the cello ‘solo’ and jazzy violin episode. It’s a good encore piece and works well.
A handful of works by Czech and Slovak composers across two generations with three works from the Americas.