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Maurice EMMANUEL (1862-1938)
Sonata for clarinet, flute and piano, Op.11 (1907) [12:46]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Flute Sonata, Op.52 (1911-13) [13:30]
Clarinet Sonata No.1, Op.85 (1923) [9:34]
Clarinet Sonata No.2, Op.86 (1923) [8:45]
Sonatine modale, for flute and clarinet, Op.155a (1935-36) [6:59]
Three Pieces for clarinet and piano, from Op.178 (1942) [4:50]
Patorale for flute, clarinet and piano, Op.75bis (1917-21) [3:17]
Markus Brönnimann (flute): Jean-Philippe Vivier (clarinet): Michael Kleiser (piano)
rec. February and May 2013, Villa Louvigny, Luxembourg

I’m not sure whether or not this 2003 recording has been released before – there is certainly no licence information in the documentation. With the exception of Maurice Emmanuel’s entrancing 1907 Sonata for clarinet, flute and piano, it’s devoted to the music of Charles Koechlin.
Emmanuel’s Sonata is a rare survivor, one of only thirty or so works that the ultra-self-critical composer didn’t destroy. What’s most admirable here is the spirited lyricism of the writing, vitality without any gauze or recourse to bogus impressionism. Instead, Emmanuel prefers his evocation to be more direct, and the warm slow movement with its tremolo for clarinet and flute and – just as much – the deft finale, are all joyously forthright. The little piping irregularities here, avian and athletic, may owe something to Emmanuel’s immersion in Greek metre. It certainly helps to keep the music on the go, constantly wrong-footing the listener and providing great opportunities for spirited chamber interplay. These are duly taken by the fine trio though I wish the recording in the Villa Louvigny in Luxembourg had been more atmospheric, and less clinical.
Koechlin’s 1911-13 Flute Sonata is a work bathed in antiquity, specifically Greek – an enthusiasm he shared with Emmanuel - in its evocation of unhurried Mediterranean sun-calm. It’s an eclogue in music, with a Fauréan Sicilienne as its central movement – loose in form but beautiful in melodic appeal – and a Fauns and Dryads finale. This, the most complex of the three movements, has the most contrasts and is the most playfully dynamic. The two Clarinet Sonatas date from a decade later when Koechlin was simplifying his style, thinning out his more exuberant gestures, preferring instead a concentration on counterpoint. The first sonata was unaccountably overlooked until performance as late as 1982. It’s a concise, spare work revealing traces of the neo-baroque whereas the companion second sonata is a more overtly lyrical work, and much less stark. Here Koechlin’s appropriation of baroque procedure is put to more robust and confident ends.
The following decade saw his Sonatine modale for flute and clarinet, couched in clear church modes, highly refined and brief. In 1942 he added to his chamber music portfolio with the Three Pieces from Op.178, for clarinet and piano, about which the notes are silent. This is a very late work, once again contrapuntally-inclined, lyric, concise and free of artifice. It’s Robert Orledge who completed the brief Pastorale from the composer’s manuscript. It’s the first movement of an incomplete trio for flute, clarinet and piano written between 1917 and 1921
With the caveat regarding the recorded sound, it’s good to note the fine performances and the welcome repertoire.
Jonathan Woolf