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Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Grand Duo Concertante Op 48 (1816) [15:52]
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Andantino for clarinet and piano (1920) [3:16]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Petite Pièce for clarinet and piano (1910) [1:03]
Joseph HOROVITZ (b.1926)
Two Majorcan Pieces (1956) [3:33]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)
Le tombeau de Ravel (Valses Caprices) (1957) [11:34]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano, H356 (1956) [10:03] 
Gervase de Peyer (clarinet)
Cyril Preedy (piano)
rec. 1960, London
ELOQUENCE 482 2851 [45:59]

Gervase de Peyer’s death hasn’t yet inaugurated a substantial retrospective of his recordings but it has certainly been marked. Decca Eloquence’s restoration of this LP, released in 1960, shows programme-construction around a classic like the Weber and works closely associated with the clarinettist such as those by Joseph Horovitz and Arthur Benjamin. Julian Budden’s original notes concern the music and his brief was clearly neither to give a biography of de Peyer nor to go into any detail regarding his kinship with the composers.

The Weber Grand Duo Concertant is a staple virtuoso vehicle for clarinettists but only the true elect can phrase with such supreme cantilena as de Peyer, with breath control, vibrato width and colour to match. The finale is full of athletic vivacity and Cyril Preedy, as he does throughout, provides estimable support. After this the lyric calm of Florent Schmitt’s brief and dappled Andantino comes as balm, juxtaposed with Debussy’s even tinier test piece. Horovitz wrote a Concertino for de Peyer in 1948 and a Sonatina followed over three decades later, and these salient facts are important elements in the clarinet’s promotion of Horovitz’s music. The two Majorcan Pieces are vibrant, the first sunny and charming, the second, Valdemosa, full of fast tonguing verve, with some brief, folksy trills.

Strangely the notes don’t mention that Arthur Benjamin wrote Le tombeau de Ravel for de Peyer in 1957. Following Brahms’ precedent with his own clarinet works, Benjamin also wrote a version for viola. These ingeniously charming waltzes are infused with deft colour, rich tone and knowing rhythmic sway. The set is one of Benjamin’s most affectionate and enjoyable. Finally, there is what I believe to be the first recording of Martinů’s Clarinet Sonatina, misdated in the track listing as having been composed in 1926 (it should be 1956). De Peyer gets the rollicking rhythm and plays with warmth and elegance.

The disc is necessarily short-measure given it’s a restoration of the LP but the programme is still a very viable one and pays just tribute to the great clarinettist.

Jonathan Woolf



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