David Shifrin

Spring Forward: Music for Clarinet and String Quartet

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Here's a delightful recital from clarinetist David Shifrin of contemporary clarinet quintets, instantly accessible, without a hint of nostalgia, and delightfully varied in mood. For listeners of a certain age, the highlight will be the presence of composer Peter Schickele, the creator of P.D.Q. Bach. He still occasionally reprises that role (a recent favorite work is The Short-Tempered Clavier) but performs less often. However, as a composer, he's quite active, and Spring Forward, written in 2014 when he was just shy of 80 years old, is both recognizable as the work of P.D.Q.'s creator and lovely in its own right. The work is basically neoclassic, with instantly graspable pictorial effects that happen not to be humorous. The second movement "Cantilena" (sample this) is worthy of Jean Françaix, with a central slow section in which the clarinet starts out with only minuscule utterances and gradually joins the dialogue. The Clarinet Quintet "The Last Jew in Hamadan" is entirely different; the first of its two movements represents composer Richard Danielpour's memories of a childhood year in Iran, while the second embodies the dire state of Iranian Jews today. Aaron Jay Kernis' Perpetual Chaconne is not really a neo-Baroque work but a conceptual expansion of the chaconne form, with an intricate but easily audible structure. Clarinetist Shifrin performs with three different string quartets, but the album has a consistent lyrical personality, and mastering engineer Matthew Lefevre gets credit for fusing three sound environments into a coherent whole. Recommended.

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