Chamber Music – Piano Trio; Suite for Cello etc
Mark Simpson (clarinet), Benjamin Baker (violin), Guy Johnston (cello), Daniel Lebhardt (piano);
Delphian DCD34231 69:57 mins
This fine debut album from London-born Matthew Kaner (b1986) reveals a composer deftly able to draw the listener into his far-reaching imaginative world. As clarinettist and Goldfield Ensemble artistic director Kate Romano notes, a love of storytelling underpins much of the music here, with starting points ranging from birds on the wing to extremes of mountain weather – and the pairing of a child’s nocturnal dreams with wider musings on stars and dark matter.
While each piece is strongly evocative, Kaner’s narratives do not merely provide extra-musical meaning or structure. It’s precisely his ability to look through others’ eyes that renders his music eloquent in abstract terms. In the Baroque-inspired Suite for Cello, for instance, it’s as if he’s offering colours and themes that soloist Guy Johnston might himself wish to explore. Likewise the swooping and hovering of Flight Studies becomes an invitation for soloist Mark Simpson to enjoy soaring with his basset clarinet. There’s playfulness here, and generosity, couched in fluid phrases that blur the boundaries between the tonal and the non-tonal – and everywhere the performers pace in subtle degrees of animation and repose. Benjamin Baker and Daniel Lebhardt prove wonderfully expressive in Five Highland Scenes (violin and piano) – joined in kind by cellist Matthias Balzat for the lovely Piano Trio, its third movement ‘Eroding Lines’ referencing the rich textile art of Kaner’s mother Sabine. Most striking of all, the clarinet quintet At Night takes the Goldfield into spaces full of mystery, yet never cold or alien.