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Moving Clarinet / Irvin Venys, Martin Kasik

Release Date: 06/15/2010 
Label:  Arco Diva   Catalog #: 106  
Composer:  Josef PálenícekBohuslav MartinuMiloslav IstvanKarel Husa,   ... 
Performer:  Martin KasíkIrvin Venys
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOVING CLARINET Irvin Veny? (cl); Martin Kasík (pn) ARCODIVA 0106-2 (52:33)

PÁLENÍ?EK Partita piccola. MARTIn? Sonatina. IŠTVAN Sonata. HUSA 3 Studies for Solo Clarinet. KALABIS Suite for Clarinet and Piano Read more

This recital of mostly obscure Czech music for clarinet was a delightful surprise. Only the Martin? Sonatina is at all well known, and in fact the other four pieces were unfamiliar to me. With the exception of the one solo-clarinet work, that of Karel Husa (about which more presently), all of the pieces are concise, three-movement works for clarinet and piano. (Very well: technically, the Martin? is in one continuous movement, but that has three sections, following the traditional fast-slow-fast pattern.) Three of the five are products of the mid 20th century, the other two from the turn of the 21st.

Josef Páleni?ek (1914–91), like Martin?, spent time between the wars in Paris, where he studied with Albert Roussel. His Partita piccola , written in 1943 and revised in 1967, is a brief, conservative work with an especially flashy clarinet part; the third movement in particular is a technical tour de force.

Bohuslav Martin? (1890–1959) is the best-known of the five composers represented; his 1956 Sonatina is now established in the basic clarinet recital repertoire. Generally lighthearted, as is much of Martin??s music, the Sonatina has a slow middle section that rises quickly to a surprisingly eloquent climax; the closing Poco allegro ends with a bring-the-house-down series of trills.

The sonata by Miloslav I?tvan (1928–90), composed in the mid 1950s, is the most ambitious piece on the program; lasting about 15 minutes, it is still melodious like the preceding two works, but is spikier both rhythmically and harmonically.

Karel Husa (b.1921) is the only living composer represented here; a longtime professor at Cornell (where I was one of his undistinguished students), he celebrated his 90th birthday in August. His Three Studies were composed in 2008 for the 60th anniversary of the Prague Spring International Competition, which may make them the only competition pieces written by an 87-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner. (Husa won the prize in 1969 for his Third String Quartet.) These pieces, totaling about nine minutes, are a sort of updating of the concept first explored in Stravinsky’s Three Pieces (1919); written in a free atonal language, they take full advantage of the clarinet’s unique technical and dynamic flexibility, and make considerable use of the altissimo register.

The final work on the program, the suite by Viktor Kalabis (1923–2006), was written in 1999. Kalabis, a former clarinetist himself, writes in a harmonically colorful post-tonal idiom, with patches reminiscent of Martin? and Messiaen.

Clarinetist Irvin Veny? plays with a firm, smooth tone and a superb technique. He cruises effortlessly through the many finger-twisting passages here, and his tone control in the altissimo register is remarkable. His Martin? Sonatina—the only reading here with any competition—is as good as any I’ve heard. Pianist Martin Kasík, who has made a number of CDs for ArcoDiva, is an able and sensitive accompanist. The recorded sound is fine.

There have been a number of good clarinet recital discs over the past few years; this is another one, with more adventurous repertoire than most. If a selection of generally conservative 20th-century Czech clarinet works interests you, this CD is sure to please.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Partita piccola by Josef Pálenícek
Performer:  Martin Kasík (Piano), Irvin Venys (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943/1967 
Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano by Bohuslav Martinu
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; Rome, Italy 
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Miloslav Istvan
Period: 20th Century 
Studies (3) for Clarinet solo by Karel Husa
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: 2008 
Suite for Clarinet and Piano by Viktor Kalabis
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999 

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