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Francaix & Prokofiev / Shirley Brill, Adrian Marar, National Radio Orchestra Of Romania

Francaix / Prokofiev / Brill / Morar
Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Aparte   Catalog #: 24   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean FrançaixSergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Shirley Brill
Conductor:  Adrian Marar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Romanian Radio/TV Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FRANÇAIX Clarinet Concerto. Tema con Variazioni. PROKOFIEV Flute Sonata Shirley Brill (cl); Adrian Morar, cond; Romanian Natl RO APARTE AP024 (59:24)


This CD could be titled Things It’s Really Hard To Do on a Clarinet. Jean Françaix’s music seems to be as consistently challenging technically as it is light-hearted; the booklet notes quote no less Read more a clarinetist than Jack Brymer as calling Françaix’s concerto “a work for the future perhaps, for when the instrument has been modernized or the human hand has evolved.” Never mind: Israeli clarinetist Shirley Brill, who counts Sabine Meyer and Richard Stoltzman among her teachers, makes quick work of it. She has a smooth, pleasing sound and a stupendous technique that enables her to play the most difficult runs evenly in any register. The Tema con Variazioni , a 1978 string-orchestra arrangement by the composer of a work originally for clarinet and piano, is no less fearsome, and Brill is no less impressive. This is quite a feat of clarinet playing.


In a couple of decades as a faculty member at a professional school of music I heard Prokofiev’s flute sonata played on four different instruments at one time or another. (The composer himself arranged it for violin at the request of David Oistrakh.) But I had never encountered Kent Kennan’s version for clarinet and orchestra. Kennan, a well-known composer and author of a widely used orchestration textbook, does a remarkable job of reproducing the sound of Prokofiev’s orchestra; the arrangement makes explicit the stylistic affinity of this work for the Fifth Symphony. Of course, the piece is weightier and less brilliant in this version than in the original, but it’s done well enough—by arranger, clarinetist, and orchestra alike—that this performance is a pleasure to hear. Brill is particularly striking in passages that work well on the flute but are much more awkward on the clarinet, such as repeated notes and rapid runs in the altissimo register. Further, gone are the days when Eastern European orchestras were likely to sound funky; the accompaniment is spot-on here as in the Françaix concerto.


A little checking shows that the Kennan arrangement has been recorded at least twice before, by Stoltzman and John Bruce Yeh. I haven’t heard them, but I doubt either has much on Brill in terms of command of the instrument. The Françaix concerto is even rarer; the only other version I could find was by Walter Boeykens on the obscure label EPR.


Given the sparse competition and the level of the playing, this one gets a strong recommendation.


FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

1.
Tema con Variazioni for Clarinet and Piano by Jean Françaix
Performer:  Shirley Brill (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Adrian Marar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Romanian Radio/TV Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974; France 
2.
Concerto for Clarinet by Jean Françaix
Performer:  Shirley Brill (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Adrian Marar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Romanian Radio/TV Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1968; France 
3.
Sonata for Flute and Piano in D major, Op. 94 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Shirley Brill (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Adrian Marar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Romanian Radio/TV Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USSR 

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