Notes and Editorial Reviews
Seiki Shinohe (cl); Anthony Spiri (pn)
CAMERATA 28225 (61: 12)
Clarinet Sonata in e?.
Introduction and Allegro Appassionato.
class="ARIAL12b">Duo in E?
translated here as “evening pieces,” was the title that appeared on Schumann’s original manuscript of what was to become the
, op. 73. Amazingly, this isn’t mentioned in Camerata’s booklet notes. Only when I noticed an extra measure or two at the end of the first piece and the absence of two arpeggios at the end of the second did I do some research and learn that the work has recently been published by Faber. It contains a fair number of subtle textual differences from the finished version. ArkivMusic lists 140 recordings of the
but this seems to be the
Originally composed for clarinet, the cycle of three short pieces is often heard, sanctioned by Schumann, in transcriptions for various instruments. In this graceful performance, the first piece, with its dovetailing melodic lines, achieves a searching, “lost in the forest” feeling, and Shinohe and Spiri create good tempo relationships between the work’s movements, which, though separate, proceed
and have thematic connections.
All of the other much less familiar music on the program is of a very high standard. Composing for clarinet and piano seems to have created an uncanny similarity of style—warm-hearted, flowing—among this group of unrelated composers. Reinecke’s work features a bit more virtuosic note spinning than the others. Elisabeth von Sachsen-Meiningen (1853–1923) was associated with Brahms and the clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld. Her slow-fast-slow
shows Brahms’s influence but has its own appealing simplicity. The sonata by Joseph Rheinberger (1839–1901)—quick, name another composer born in Vaduz, Liechtenstein—is the most ambitious composition here, a full-fledged sonata, lively and dramatic, and well worth knowing. The booklet notes fail to mention that it is the composer’s transcription of one of his violin sonatas, which explains some of the high, strenuous writing for the clarinet.
Schumann wrote that the death of Norbert Burgmüller (1810–36) from epilepsy at age 26 was “the most deplorable loss to music since the death of Schubert.” The Duo, op. 15, is Burgmüller’s most-recorded concert work, but his piano etudes are also very familiar to piano teachers. The op. 100 set includes such musically insipid though effective teaching pieces as the Arabesque and Ballade, which, though they’re popular with beginning students, I have come to dread having to hear, but here I am, a piano teacher, listening repeatedly to Burgmüller’s lovely duo and revising my estimation of his melodic gift and musical sophistication sharply upward.
The duo, a small masterpiece like the
, consists of three brief, interrelated movements, played without pause, that could be mistaken for sections of one unified ABA structure. The first movement’s opening theme is similar to the opening of the Saint-Saëns Clarinet Sonata. Burgmüller’s melodies, particularly in the tender slow movement, have a gentle, tossed-off feeling, and the third movement’s reprise of material from the opening is handled less pretentiously than in the Saint-Saëns.
In sum, this is a rewarding, well-chosen program. Aside from a little shrillness on a very few louder high notes and the very occasional sound of air rushing through the instrument, Seiki Shinohe plays with beautiful, mellow tone, shapely phrasing, and dramatic engagement. (I wonder about the air sound. I have heard it from the very finest clarinetists in live performance. It doesn’t seem to affect tone and it seems petty to even mention it, yet it’s more of a factor on a recording.) Anthony Spiri’s fine variety of touch and characterful playing make him an equal partner.
FANFARE: Paul Orgel
Works on This Recording
Romance by Maria Elisabeth von Sachsen-Meiningen
Seiki Shinohe (Clarinet),
Anthony Spiri (Piano)
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