Cristo Barrios

Berg, Bernstein, Salonen, Brotons, Honegger, Bax

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Spanish clarinetist Cristo Barrios is definitely a terrific talent on the clarinet; his sound is silvery, the voice of the instrument is free, and he has a wonderful sense of dramatic timing. This Metier recital disc, in which Barrios is paired with piano accompanist Clinton Cormany, probably won't find many takers outside of those who fancy the clarinet, but for those who do, this will be a treat. The premise behind this collection is that "the twentieth century was very good to the clarinet," and even if the way this phrase is worded brings to mind the vapidities of Saturday Night Live's Chico Escuela, it is true; the sheer range of high-quality clarinet pieces from the twentieth puts the nineteenth to shame, as good as the Crussell and Brahms pieces are. Barrios somehow gets a bunch of it in, ranging from the aphoristic expressionism of Berg's Vier Stücke (1913) to Salvador Brotons' muscular and potently rhythmic Sonata Op. 46 (1988). In a sense the banquet is a bit too rich; once past the Berg it is a good idea to take a break. Otherwise one is likely to develop a case of "clarinetitis" and will not be able to keep attentive to the fine, solid Bax Sonata (1934), Arthur Honneger's mysterious and engaging Sonatina (1921-1922) or Esa-Pekka Salonen's early and concise Nachtlieder (1978). The sound is warm and responsive, if a little narrow and bright. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable recital, and Cristo Barrios is definitely a clarinetist to keep an eye on.

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