Alter Ego

David Bergmüller / David Orlowsky

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Alter Ego Review

by James Manheim

Browsers of new releases might be forgiven for skipping over this album of duos by clarinetist David Orlowsky and lutenist David Bergmüller. The mix of Baroque melodies and hazily named original compositions is similar to that on hundreds of crossover releases. The Alter Ego concept, referring to the performers' feelings of having found their other halves when they met and started to collaborate, does not illuminate the music in more than a general way, but to dismiss this release would be a major mistake. The combination of clarinet and lute seems odd and ahistorical, but it works beautifully, evoking moments of wind orchestration in 18th century opera. Orlowsky's clarinet has the vocal quality he aims for, but it also achieves much more; Orlowsky has a background in klezmer music, and his clarinet intensifies its range of textures as a piece proceeds and reaches striking peaks of expressiveness. Sample the "chills" at the end of Purcell's Cold Song (one of four Purcell tunes on the album) for an idea. Best of all, the two performers, whether they are each other's alter egos or not, do quickly define a conversational world that will draw listeners in and will not let them go. Add in exceptional sound from the Schloss Elmau hotel in Germany, and the end result is a really unusual duo release.

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