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Charles Nicholas BOCHSA (1789-1856)
Grand Sonate op. 52 for clarinet and harp [26:20]
Jacques BOUFFIL (1783-1868)
Duo in E flat major for harp and clarinet [18:08]
Philippe WOLFF (19th century)
Grand Duo Concertant for harp and clarinet [23:46]
Rachel Talitman (harp)
Olivier Dartevelle (clarinet)
rec. no details
HARP & COMPANY CD5050-35 [68:14]

Recorded more closely than Harp & Co's CD of the Lefèvre duos (CD5050-32) this disc stays with the music of nineteenth century France. The temperament remains at least 90% of that which was congenial to Lefèvre - the Mozartean serenading manner. Here, though, in the case of the Bouffil Duo there is more musical sustenance for the harp although it's still by no means joint primo with the clarinet. That said, it dances and reaches out to today's listener or at least to the listener who responds to the grace of Boieldieu. The music reaches out in new wistful romantic directions. It's only a shame that the Bouffil ends up in one 18-minute track despite its three sections: Allegro moderato, Adagio and Allegro agitato. In the title of that last movement lies a hint about the step taken beyond Lefèvre territory. The word 'agitato' signals a slight ambivalence of mood around the fundamental Allegro. I would be chary of attaching historical motivation to music but here the additional strata may well be down to the fact that composer-clarinettist Bouffil - a pupil of Lefèvre - endured much upheaval in a life that saw the French Revolution.

We are not given Wolff's dates but his flirty Grand Duo Concertant is showy. There's a touch of bel canto about it but with some grateful and engaging writing for the harp. Unlike the Lefèvre works, this was written for these two instruments. Dartevelle and Talitman ensnare the listener's attention with Wolff's silky threads. No specific date is ascribed to the work but the note seems to imply that it is a product of the first half of the nineteenth century.

Harpist and composer Charles Bochsa was born in France. He was in demand in Royal circles at a time when the harp was in public vogue. His three-movement Grande Sonate is more of a clarinet sonata with harp but rather as with the other two works here the harp line is no mere bag-carrier.

Both instruments are recorded assertively leaving it to Rachel Talitman's equable sound and collegiate judgement to recognise the lead role of Dartevelle's clarinet. This is charming music, most lithely spun and agreeably documented although as with the Lefèvre disc's booklet the font is a little too small and the text occupies in each case too much of the page. While it's good to be reminded of Harp & Co's splendid CD catalogue a less crowded page and fewer than six pages of other CD covers would have helped all-round.

So far as pure music values are concerned I could not ask for more accomplished music-making from a nonchalantly tuneful source. The good humour of this music is typified by an illustration which has an aristocrat clapping his hands to his pained ears as another bewigged brother plays an early clarinet with ladies playing mandolin and harp in the foreground.

Rob Barnett

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