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A Touch Of France / Anna Hashimoto, Daniel Smith

Hashimoto,Anna / Smith
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Meridian Records   Catalog #: 84581   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Donato LovreglioArthur BenjaminClaude DebussyFrancis Poulenc,   ... 
Performer:  Anna HashimotoDaniel Smith
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A TOUCH OF FRANCE Anna Hashimoto (cl); Daniel Smith (pn) MERIDIAN CDE 84581 (72:56)

LOVREGLIO Concert Fantasy on Verdi’s La Traviata. BENJAMIN Le Tombeau de Ravel. DEBUSSY Première rhapsodie. Petite pièce. POULENC Sonata. SAINT-SAËNS Read more class="ARIAL12b">Sonata. CAVALLINI Carnival of Venice

Cards on the table: this is simply the most stunning clarinet recital disc that has come my way since I started writing for Fanfare five years ago. 21-year-old Anna Hashimoto, born in Japan but raised in England, is still a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she studies with the renowned clarinetist Michael Collins. As the performances on this CD make clear, however, she is already a complete master of her instrument. In fact, she has already embarked on an international career, with numerous performances in England and Japan, as well as several appearances on the European continent; the latter include the Seventh International Clarinet Competition in Carlino, Italy, in 2009, where she was the top prize winner.

This generous recital appears to be Hashimoto’s debut recording. With one exception, noted below, the repertoire is ideally chosen to display the young virtuosa’s strengths: a lovely, firm tone notable for its purity and evenness; a superbly controlled legato, whether in the lowest chalumeau or the highest altissimo register, whether pianissimo or fortissimo ; dead-on intonation; and, not least, a preternaturally effortless-sounding technique. The latter is especially on display in the opening Verdi fantasy by the 19th-century flutist Donato Lovreglio (with adjustments to the solo part by the clarinet virtuoso and pedagogue Alamiro Giampieri). Of course, like other such concert fantasies or paraphrases, the piece isn’t about Verdi’s opera at all, rather using its well-known tunes as the basis for variations that border on the technically preposterous. Its musical substance, of course, is slight, but it certainly serves its purpose of calling our attention to the skills of the soloist, who makes quick work of its technical challenges.

The rules already having been bent somewhat to open A Touch of France with an Italian piece (OK, La traviata is set in Paris), it’s good to see the music of the Australian native Arthur Benjamin included as well. Benjamin is remembered mostly as the composer of the once-popular Jamaican Rumba (he spelled it without the “h”); his more serious music remains little-known. This is too bad; the present work, subtitled “Valse-Caprices” and modeled after the Valses nobles et sentimentales , is both substantial and engaging; it also has its share of finger-twisting passages. Gervase de Peyer championed this piece when it was new, including it in a 1961 recital LP; he may have been a bit more stylish than Hashimoto, but he couldn’t touch her level of refinement.

Debussy’s Rhapsodie must have been a fearsome test for the Paris Conservatory clarinet students for whom it was composed; while not outwardly showy, it requires extraordinary breath control and a well-supported pianissimo , and calls for considerable finger technique as well. Hashimoto has it all in spades; seldom will one hear such beautiful altissimo playing in this work, and the tricky runs are as clean as I’ve ever heard them. Her phrasing as well is beyond reproach. The aptly named Petite pièce , less than a minute and a half long, is placed between the final two works on the program; it serves as a nice interlude, and Hashimoto doesn’t try to make more of it than it is.

Poulenc’s sonata combines the brash impudence characteristic of Les Six with a suave expressiveness. Hashimoto revels in both, her tone uncannily pure and controlled in the delicate passages, her technique flawless in the flashy ones. Only the Saint-Saëns sonata is less than totally convincing here; while Hashimoto’s performance is never less than tasteful and accurate, this uneven work of the composer’s final year needs more help than she can provide. Jonathan Cohler’s recent account makes a stronger case. (See my article-review in Fanfare 32:4.)

The encore, a set of variations on the ubiquitous Carnival of Venice , returns us to the métier of the opening piece. The work of another famous Italian clarinetist, Ernesto Cavallini, it is unusual in calling for the small clarinet in E?, a notoriously temperamental instrument that can sound downright nasty in the wrong hands. Hashimoto’s performance will leave you either slack-jawed or laughing.

Meridian’s sound is close to ideal: there’s plenty of space around the instruments, and yet Hashimoto’s every nuance is easily heard. Pianist Daniel Smith provides sensitive accompaniments. The brief notes, written by the clarinetist herself, cover the essentials nicely.

A definitive judgment of Anna Hashimoto’s musicianship may have to wait until she records some of the clarinet’s more substantive repertoire, in particular the twin peaks of Mozart and Brahms. She’s probably well advised to take her time on this; after all, even the most renowned clarinetists generally get only one or two opportunities to record those works, and she’s got a long career ahead of her. In the meantime, the present disc clearly and unquestionably displays a major talent, and offers performances that are extremely impressive in their own right. Keep an eye on this young artist; she’s already something special. This is altogether a most exceptional debut recital.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Concert Fantasia on themes from Verdi's "La Traviata", Op. 45 by Donato Lovreglio
Performer:  Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet), Daniel Smith (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1865; Italy 
Length: 10 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Le Tombeau de Ravel by Arthur Benjamin
Performer:  Daniel Smith (Piano), Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; England 
Length: 13 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Première Rhapsodie for Clarinet and Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Daniel Smith (Piano), Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1910; France 
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet), Daniel Smith (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1962; France 
Length: 14 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E flat major, Op. 167 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Daniel Smith (Piano), Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; France 
Length: 16 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Petite pièce for Clarinet and Piano by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet), Daniel Smith (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; France 
Length: 1 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Carnevale di Venezia, for clarinet & piano by Ernesto Cavallini
Performer:  Anna Hashimoto (Clarinet), Daniel Smith (Piano)
Length: 7 Minutes 43 Secs. 

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