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The Naked Clarinet / Tasha Warren

Warren / Rozsa / Tower / Yehuda / Dzubay / Larsen
Release Date: 12/22/2009 
Label:  Crystal   Catalog #: 739   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Shulamit RanGuy YehudaDavid DzubayLibby Larsen,   ... 
Performer:  Tasha Warren
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE NAKED CLARINET Tasha Warren (cl) CRYSTAL 739 (54:47)

RÓZSA Sonatina. RAN Music for an Actor: Monologue for Clarinet. TOWER Wings. YEHUDA 3 Preludes. DZUBAY Solus II. LARSEN Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Dancing Solo

“Naked” simply refers to this being an album of unaccompanied clarinet music. Now, any instrument playing alone for a full 50-60 minutes is a challenge for me, unless it’s the Bach sonatas and partitas or something of that ilk. For wind instruments it is doubly tough, which might explain the decision to limit this particular recital to only 55 minutes—probably wise.

But Warren, currently principal clarinet of the Charlottesville and University Orchestra and on the faculty of the University of Virginia, has established quite a pedigree since her graduation from the North Carolina School of the Arts (close to where I grew up) in 1989 and subsequent studies at Indiana University—another old haunt of mine—and has a lot to offer. The selection of pieces is by and large very good, only Shulamit Ran choosing to indulge in horrid multiphonics (by definition a technique designed to make woodwind instruments sound as convulsively ugly as possible) while the others ignore such shenanigans and concentrate on true musicality. Actually the Ran has its moments, but this tendency to brutalize otherwise beautiful instruments needs to be resisted by performers and brought to a halt. And that says nothing of the fact that these techniques are becoming overtly stereotypical.

The Miklós Rózsa is a delightful work, as you might expect, dedicated to Bronislaw Kaper, a former MGM composer. If you know the composer at all (and you should) then you know what to expect as his style did not undergo significant changes. Joan Tower is practically a household name among those Serious Record Collectors in the know, and her Wings is quite often performed, pretending to be a large falcon and following it through various aspects of its flight. This is my first exposure to the original 1981 clarinet version (it has been recorded on saxophone as well) and I can’t say I like it much more than I did when hearing it years ago. We hear various techniques like large melodic leaps, trills, and tremolos, but at 10 minutes this bird fails mid-flight.

Israeli composer Guy Yehuda’s Three Preludes is something of an homage to Stravinsky’s Three Pieces, each movement exploring aspects of the clarinet’s range. Yehuda does a fine job here, giving us a lesson in color confinement as it applies to the clarinet, yet making musical bricks out of the clarinet’s hay by not merely allowing us to hear variations on lower-, middle-, and upper-range sounds alone, but giving us genuine musical substance as well. David Dzubay invites us to explore a reworking of the first movement of his clarinet concerto, “American Midlife,” which I am sure I would appreciate more if I knew the concerto. As is, the almost six-minute piece lets us follow the melodic line as it becomes increasingly disparate after having initially fought off dispersal to become unified in its coalescence, like a top that begins spinning somewhat uneasily, gathers itself straight up, and then slows and becomes more off-balance as it winds down. I know this is a weird description, but the piece really does maintain interest.

Libby Larsen doesn’t lack for compositions or performances, and her Dancing Solo is the highlight of this disc, at 13 minutes a real challenge for a solo wind. In her words, “I am making a dance for the clarinet, a dance composed of color, rhythm, beat implied and explicit, and breath: The music is the dance and the dance is the music.” It is a wondrous work, dedicated to clarinetist Caroline Hartig, whose Clarinet Brilliante I and II on Centaur are two of the finest clarinet albums ever released.

Tasha Warren has a lovely sound with excellent balance and color in each register. Her technique is formidable, amplified in its success by some of the best sound I have heard Crystal Records ever give a soloist. Despite my few reservations about a couple of the pieces, you may feel differently, and the spirit of the whole far outweighs the criticism of the parts. Recommended then, especially to those needing some clarinet discs in their collection. No word in the notes about whether the semi-nude torso of a woman on the front cover holding a clarinet strategically placed is that of the artist or not.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

For an Actor by Shulamit Ran
Performer:  Tasha Warren (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978; USA 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Echo Park Studios in Bloomington, Indian 
Length: 9 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Preludes (3), for clarinet by Guy Yehuda
Performer:  Tasha Warren (Clarinet)
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Echo Park Studios in Bloomington, Indian 
Length: 6 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Solus 2, for clarinet by David Dzubay
Performer:  Tasha Warren (Clarinet)
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Reflections Sound in Charlotte, NC 
Length: 5 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Dancing Solo by Libby Larsen
Performer:  Tasha Warren (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; USA 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Echo Park Studios in Bloomington, Indian 
Length: 13 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Sonatina for Clarinet solo by Miklós Rózsa
Performer:  Tasha Warren (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; USA 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Echo Park Studios in Bloomington, Indian 
Length: 9 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Wings by Joan Tower
Performer:  Tasha Warren (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; USA 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Echo Park Studios in Bloomington, Indian 
Length: 10 Minutes 11 Secs. 

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