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Voyage: Clarinet and Piano Around the World
Eleanor Weingartner (clarinet)
Alfredo Isaac Aguilar (piano)
rec. July 2017, Studio 13, Parque del Conde, City of Mexico
URTEXT JBCC315 [54:25]

If the clarinet voyage here isn’t quite one that embraces a significant number of time zones – it depends, I suppose, on your definition of the disc’s title ‘around the world’ – it still happily includes a piece that pays homage to Gershwin, which lets in North America by default. Otherwise, the programme is focused squarely on Europe. It’s better to think of it as embracing the clarinet’s folklorically-influenced self and expanding outward to admit some other pleasing examples of the clarinet-and-piano genre.

The disc opens with deceptive gentleness with Louis Cahuzac’s Cantilėne, a piece that the composer himself recorded in 1948. Eleanor Weingartner and pianist Alfredo Isaac Aguilar are a touch slower than Cahuzac’s 78 but vest the piece with a full complement of gracious lyricism. Béla Kovács was one of the leading Hungarian clarinettists of his generation in the same way that Cahuzac was the leading French player of his own generation and his genially titled After You, Mr Gershwin! dates from 2004. There are hints of Rhapsody in Blue, inevitably given the instrument involved, and the cocky perambulations, with a very Bluesy B section, reach out to An American in Paris.

From an older Hungarian generation than Kovacs is Kókai Rezsö, who died in 1962. His 1951 Four Hungarian Dances till Bartókian soil, from the tangibly militaristic March, through a fast folksy country dance, an oddly slinky funeral march to the last of the four, the only one based on a pre-existing folk tune, an exciting Friss. Witold Lutosławski’s Dance Preludes date from a few years later and are heard here in their original form; the composer was later to make two distinct orchestral versions. This was Lutosławski at the end of his folkloric period investigating its potential for melodic flair and rhythmic vivacity and also for genial and attractive themes.

Gordon Jacob represents clean-limbed virtues in his 1946 Sonatina for clarinet (or viola) and piano. One would expect poise and poetry from Jacob and one gets that in an almost lullaby-like second movement and a puckish finale with its winding-down end. It’s played with an adept insight into its moods. The recital ends with three of the three charming Schubert arrangements made by Carl Baermann. The long-breathed lines, moments of near-anguish and geniality are alike well characterised in this performance.

Indeed, with good recording quality throughout, Eleanor Weingartner’s finely calibrated tonal resources are a pleasure to hear, and Alfredo Isaac Aguilar is a poised partner at the keyboard. Though their voyage is not quite the worldwide jaunt suggested, it covers ground very well indeed and offers a balanced perspective on the repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf

Louis CAHUZAC (1880-1960)

Cantilėne (publ. 1972) [5:04]
Béla KOVÁCS (b.1937)
After You, Mr Gershwin! (2004) [4:32]
Kókai REZSÖ (1906-1962)
Four Hungarian Dances (1951) [15:21]
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)
Dance Preludes (1954) [ 10:04]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Sonatina for Clarinet (or Viola) and Piano (1946) [11:14]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Gretchen am Spinnrade (arr. Carl Baermann) [3:08]
Lob der Thränen (arr. Carl Baermann) [3:07]
Wohin? (arr. Carl Baermann) [1:58]

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