La Clarinet Française

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bloch,Debussy,Milhaud,Pierne,Poulenc,Saint-Saens
LABELS: Zig-Zag Territoires
ALBUM TITLE: La Clarinet Française
WORKS: Works by Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Bloch, Pierné and Milhaud
PERFORMER: Lisa Shklyaver (clarinet)
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 358

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At first sight, this looks like a straightforward recital of 20th-century French clarinet music; but at first sound, it’s transformed by the use of period instruments. Jos van Immerseel’s 1870 Bechstein piano is a constant source of delight, speaking clearly throughout its compass without any lower-register mud; the magical opening of Debussy’s Rhapsody has never sounded so inviting. Lisa Shklyaver’s 1930 clarinet by Doinet, Lefevre & Pigis enables the player to project a line with purity and ease, even when, as in the scherzo of the Saint-Saëns Sonata, it jumps rapidly between registers. But some notes sound difficult to tune; and, whether because of the instrument or not, Shklyaver seems reluctant to open out the range of dynamics to a full fortissimo.

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The imaginative programme pairs the Saint-Saëns Sonata with that of Poulenc, both works written late in life with assured mastery, and to complement the poetic Debussy includes André Bloch’s Denneriana, a lively homage to one of the inventors of the clarinet, Gabriel Pierné’s lilting Canzonetta and, as a joyously tuneful conclusion, Milhaud’s Scaramouche. The disc is very well recorded and well presented, apart from an irritating absence of track timings and an incorrect overall timing. Anthony Burton