This CD is a re-release of a disc previously reviewed
for this site by Gwyn Parry-Jones in April 2004. There is no change
to the original disc, with the same cover design and identical notes,
which take no cognizance of the death of Sir John Dankworth in 2010.
Dankworth was a real enthusiast for all kinds of music, not only the
jazz by which he made his name and by which he is still remembered.
He wrote Suite for Emma
for Emma Johnson after she won the BBC
Young Musician of the Year
competition, and it is hardly a jazz
piece at all although some occasional inflections remind us of Dankworth’s
roots especially in the jaunty scherzo which concludes the suite.
The Bernstein Sonata
, on the other hand, was his first work to
achieve prominence and the jazz influences are extremely apparent in
some places despite the evidence of indebtedness to Hindemith in some
of the passage-writing for the clarinet. One might be hard pushed to
guess the composer, though; there is no evidence at all of the later
Bernstein idiom here even in the arching melody of the Andantino
Arthur Benjamin’s tribute to Ravel was originally written for
viola but later rearranged for Gervase de Peyer, who recorded the clarinet
version in the 1950s. Although Benjamin is almost entirely known nowadays
for his light music, especially the ubiquitous Jamaican Rumba
is in fact a more substantial piece than either of
its predecessors on the disc; and despite its origins it sounds ideally
suited to the clarinet, as much so as the Rachmaninov Vocalise
which follows it - although the Rachmaninov melody fits pretty well
onto any instrument - although I would not like to hear it on the trombone.
The four Time pieces
by Robert Muczynski (an American composer
despite his Slovak name) are the most modern pieces on this disc. The
composer explains in a booklet note: “The title of the work has
nothing to do with mechanical clocks or watches. It is not a play on
words but rather an awareness of the fact that everything exists in
time: history, our lives and - in a special way - music.” If this
means anything at all - and I rather suspect it doesn’t - it means
that we should treat these pieces as absolute music, and as such they
are really thoroughly enjoyable, the first movement rollicking joyfully
along and the second movement a sustained melody over piano chords.
These are followed by a jaunty scherzo and a finale which effectively
constitute a Clarinet Sonata
in everything but name.
The two Previn miniatures which conclude the disc again have a slightly
jazzy feel to them; the first has indeed the flavour of a night-club
improvisation, while the second has a sort of off-beat rumba rhythm.
They make delightful encores and round off the disc neatly.
Alan Vivian is an excellent player throughout, relishing the jazz influences
in the Dankworth, Bernstein and Previn pieces, and fully in control
of his instrument in all registers with never a suspicion of a squeak
or squawk. Susanne Powell is a fully supportive accompanist, well balanced
with the clarinet in a ripe and resonant acoustic. If the programme
appeals, this is well worth a listen.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
See also review by Gwyn Parry-Jones