Origines & départs – French Works for Clarinet & Piano
Chausson: Andante et Allegro; Honegger: Sonatine; Poulenc: Clarinet Sonata; Saint-Saëns: Clarinet Sonata; plus short pieces by Debussy, Gaubert, McGuire, Pierné and Trujillo
Maximiliano Martín (clarinet), Scott Mitchell (piano)
Delphian DCD34280 68:25 mins
We’re told there’s no disputing over tastes, but I confess I don’t much like Maximiliano Martín’s tone in louder passages: for me, it’s a touch ‘hooty’. He’s at his considerable best in more ‘left-field’ pieces – an interesting ‘Souvenir’ by the Tenerife-born Gustavo Trujillo and the jazzy finale of Honegger’s Sonatine. Saint-Saëns’s Sonata also comes over well, with its extraordinary way of using an almost entirely 19th-century vocabulary to produce music that couldn’t possibly have emerged from that period.
Two major problems are the duo’s cavalier treatment of tempo and especially dynamics. Debussy’s Petite Pièce, a sight-reading exercise, packs any amount of nuanced feeling into its tiny frame, and the slowing down in the final bars is crucial in setting a seal of tenderness on the whole. Ignoring this, as here, writes the ending off as perfunctory. In the Poulenc Sonata dynamics are crucial. In Boulez’s eyes, Poulenc was a typical Frenchman through what he condemned as ‘writing in blocks’. Well, this may not have suited Boulez, but Poulenc gives life to the blocks by his variation of dynamics. In this Sonata, two bars of ppp aside, there are five levels from pp to ff, the composer indulging in a kind of oratory that ranges from whispering, murmuring, stating and insisting to shouting. These levels absolutely must be observed. Also the piano’s accompanimental patterns are at times clattery, ignoring Poulenc’s insistence that these be softened by the ‘rich sauce’ of the sustaining pedal.