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David Shifrin & Friends

Copland / Zwilich / Shifrin / Kavafian / Neubauer
Release Date: 07/31/2012 
Label:  Delos   Catalog #: 3423   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Stephen HartkeEllen Taaffe ZwilichAaron CoplandAaron J. Kernis
Performer:  David ShifrinDaniel PhillipsAnne-Marie McDermottFred Sherry,   ... 
Conductor:  Ransom Wilson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 20 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



DAVID SHIFRIN & FRIENDS David Shifrin (cl); 1 Ani Kavafian (vn); 2 Ida Kavafian (vn); 6 Daniel Phillips (vn); 3 Paul Neubauer (va); 4 Fred Sherry (vc); 5 Anne-Marie McDermott (pn); 7 various other musicians Read more class="BULLET12"> • DELOS 3423 (79:12)


COPLAND Sextet for Clarinet, Piano, and String Quartet. 1-5 HARTKE The Horse with the Lavender Eye. 5,6 KERNIS Trio in Red. 4,5 ZWILICH Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra 1,4,7


Richard Stoltzman may well be the older and more famous of America’s clarinetists, but David Shifrin is the one who has more passionately built a career around chamber music. Their techniques are also very different, producing different sounds: Stoltzman both a little fuller and more “edgy” in quality, Shifrin more classically pure. Shifrin has been the artistic director of Chamber Music Northwest since 1981, and was also director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 1992 to 2004. In the latter capacity, he supervised a marvelous three-CD set of the complete chamber music of Debussy (Delos 3167) which happens to be one of my all-time favorite recordings. And, in both capacities—East Coast and West—he works with some of my favorite American chamber musicians, among them the Kavafian sisters on violin, Anne-Marie McDermott on piano, Paul Neubauer on viola and Fred Sherry (who was actually Stoltzman’s ex-bandmate in the chamber group Tashi) on cello.


Thus it was with great enthusiasm that I looked forward to this recording, and I was not in the least bit disappointed. Shifrin always seems to be able to bring out so much character in the groups he supervises and/or participates in, partly, I suspect, due to the extremely high quality of his musical friends, and those here are no exception. From the first notes of Copland’s Sextet, one of his finest works and a reduction of his Short Symphony, one is immediately riveted by the high quality of the music and its performance. Other recordings include the one by enhakï on Naxos 8.559692, a disc praised in these pages by my esteemed colleague Jerry Dubins, and one by a chamber group featuring clarinetist Harold Wright, the Juilliard String Quartet, and Copland himself as pianist on Sony 89326, but Shifrin and his colleagues are right up there with the best of them.


On the other hand, there is but one other recording of Stephen Hartke’s The Horse with the Lavender Eye, by violinist Ellen Jewett, clarinetist Richard Faria and pianist Xak Bjerken (Chandos 10513), also highly praised in Fanfare (this time by Colin Clarke). I haven’t heard that performance, but this one really sparkles with Hartke’s crazy-clockwork rhythms and quirky harmonic shifts. The liner notes claim that his inspirations were “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down,” and “a Daffy Duck song from an old Looney Tunes cartoon.” I don’t think the annotator ever saw a Looney Tunes cartoon, because that was the theme song of all of that Warner Brothers’ cartoon series—although it was sung by Daffy Duck in “Daffy Duck and Egghead” (1938). One must get one’s cartoon history and priorities straight here! In any case, it’s a delightfully quirky piece given an equally delightful, and quirky, reading.


This appears to be the first, and only, recording of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Trio in Red . Its first movement, “Orange Circle, Yellow Line” is largely plaintive and moody, albeit with a staccato piano accompaniment. Gradually, however, it morphs into the busy, spiraling melodic line of the middle section before relaxing the tempo once again. The second part, “Red Whirl,” is an almost-chaotic-sounding piece that ends on a high cadence. This also appears to be the premiere recording of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra. It is typical of her wonderful style, beginning with a brash, cheerful first movement before shifting gears into an elegy for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy. The work received its world premiere in Alice Tully Hall, played by Shifrin and 12 members of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, and although this is a live performance given in Portland in 2004, I would guess that some of the musicians (particularly Ani Kavafian and Fred Sherry) were also in the world premiere in New York. The elegy is based on a sparse, broken melody, all the more moving because it does not wallow in bathos. Even more remarkably, unlike other composers who stayed within elegy mode, Zwilich presents a third movement that is not only upbeat but actually a scherzo, albeit a quirky one with a slow passage in the middle, reminiscent of the second-movement elegy. The return to the nervous, jumpy energy of the opening theme is accompanied by what sounds like a full drum kit. The last movement presents something of a return to the elegiac mood of the second movement, although with edgy figures played on violas and somber bass commentaries under a clarinet melody before equally edgy violins play a stark melodic figure. The music here centers around C Minor and, after a particularly edgy outburst by the clarinet (playing so high that it almost sounds like a flute), collapses in a tired, sad melody in E?-Minor.


Perhaps it was a misjudgment to end the CD on such a somber note; perhaps not. Individual listeners can decide for themselves. But there is no mistaking the deeply felt quality of the performance, so much so that the emotion is palpable, nor the high quality of the concerto itself. I have no hesitation in recommending this disc.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
The Horse with the Lavender Eye by Stephen Hartke
Performer:  David Shifrin (Clarinet), Daniel Phillips (Violin), Anne-Marie McDermott (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1997 
Venue:  Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland, 
Length: 18 Minutes 55 Secs. 
2.
Concerto for Clarinet by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
Performer:  Fred Sherry (Cello), Sally Nelson Kuhns (Cornet), Allan Vogel (Oboe),
David Shifrin (Clarinet), Daniel Ching (Violin), Edgar Meyer (Double Bass),
William Purvis (Horn), Joshua Gindele (Cello), Sandy Yamamoto (Violin),
Catherine Cho (Violin), Theodore Arm (Violin), Cornelia Heard (Violin),
Julie Feves (Bassoon), Tara Helen O'Connor (Flute), Ani Kavafian (Violin),
Niel DePonte (Percussion), John Largess (Viola), Todd Phillips (Viola),
John Cox (Horn)
Conductor:  Ransom Wilson
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2001-2002 
Venue:  Live  Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, Portland, 
Length: 27 Minutes 15 Secs. 
3.
Sextet for String Quartet, Clarinet and Piano by Aaron Copland
Performer:  David Shifrin (Clarinet), Fred Sherry (Cello), Ida Kavafian (Violin),
Anne-Marie McDermott (Piano), Paul Neubauer (Viola), Ani Kavafian (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; USA 
Date of Recording: 11/26/2002 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, New 
Length: 14 Minutes 9 Secs. 
4.
Trio in Red, for clarinet, cello & piano by Aaron J. Kernis
Performer:  David Shifrin (Clarinet), Fred Sherry (Cello), Anne-Marie McDermott (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2001 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters, New 
Length: 17 Minutes 15 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Sextet: I. Allegro vivace
Sextet: II. Lento
Sextet: III. Finale
The Horse with the Lavender Eye: I. Music of the Left
The Horse with the Lavender Eye: II. The Servant of 2 Masters
The Horse with the Lavender Eye: III. Waltzing at the Abyss
The Horse with the Lavender Eye: IV. Cancel My Rumba Lesson
Trio in Red: I. Orange Circle, Yellow Line
Trio in Red: II. Red Whirl
Clarinet Concerto: I. -
Clarinet Concerto: II. Elegy: September 11
Clarinet Concerto: III. -
Clarinet Concerto: IV. -

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