Milhaud, Tailleferre, Honegger, Auric & Poulenc

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COMPOSERS: Auric & Poulenc,Honegger,Milhaud,Tailleferre
LABELS: Centaur
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Music of Les Six for Clarinet and Piano
WORKS: Works by Milhaud, Tailleferre, Honegger, Auric & Poulenc
PERFORMER: Eric Wachmann (clarinet), Ted Reuter (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CRC 2587
Welcome to the back seat of an auditorium at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, where in the distance a concert is going on. CD production quality is generally so good these days that a boomy, indistinct acoustic like the one presented here comes as something of a shock. And to make matters worse, what’s happening on stage is disappointing, too. The idea is good – some more or less well-known works for clarinet and piano by five of Les Six (Louis Durey is, as usual, the forgotten sixth) – but more trouble has been expended on programme-building than its execution. In fact, too often there is the feeling that Eric Wachmann and Ted Reuter are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, content just to get through the notes without incurring serious damage. Little thought has gone into how best to present the music. Tonal quality varies little in pieces of widely disparate mood and the overriding mood is the unsatisfactory one of neutrality. A square, plodding run-through of Tailleferre’s Menuet – as if danced by Caliban – seems to typify the wasted opportunity that dominates the whole project. Comparison with a rival version of Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata shows what we are missing. Ronald Van Spaendonck and Alexandre Tharaud immediately strike the listener as more brisk, fluent and competent. They give a performance that manages to sound both considered and spontaneous, illuminated by subtleties of light and shade that on this occasion were in short supply in Waverly, Iowa. Christopher Wood

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