FRENCH MUSIC FOR CLARINET AND PIANO • Ronald van Spaendonck (cl); Alexandre Tharaud (pn) • HARMONIA MUNDI 1951596 (74:26)
POULENC Clarinet Sonata. DEBUSSY Petite pièce. Rhapsody. MILHAUD Scaramouche. GAUBERT Fantasy. SAINT-SAËNSRead moreClarinet Sonata. PIERNÉ Canzonetta. HONEGGER Sonatine. FRANÇAIX Tema con variazioni
This recital, issued in 2011, was recorded back in 1996; it was apparently first issued in 1997, but I don’t remember ever coming across it before, and it has likely been unavailable for some time.
I reviewed Ronald van Spaendonck’s recital of sonatinas on Fuga Libera in Fanfare 33:5; the Belgian clarinetist was and is a fluent player with a clear, bright sound that’s quite suitable for this music. If anything, the sound was a bit firmer in the 2009 program than in this one, but the present disc features well-controlled pianissimos and impressive breath control along with a formidable technique in compositions, such as the Milhaud and Françaix, whose technical demands are rather out of proportion to their musical content.
Most of the works here are basic clarinet recital repertoire; those that are not, such as the Gaubert Fantasy, are attractive if of no major musical significance. The only substandard performance here is the Saint-Saëns sonata, which is a particularly difficult piece to pull off convincingly; I find Spaendonck overblows in the opening section of the third-movement Lento. Indeed, while I prefer performances of individual works by Anna Hashimoto on Meridian (Poulenc, Debussy), Jonathan Cohler on Ongaku and Crystal (Saint-Saëns and Honegger), and Sabine Meyer on EMI (Milhaud), this CD is as attractive a way as I know of to have a substantial portion of the French recital repertoire for clarinet in one package. Recommended on that basis.