Clarinetist Fredrik Fors and pianist Sveinung Bjelland deserve kudos on the release of this handsome Harmonia Mundi album, not only for delivering intelligent and subtly balanced performances, but also for presenting a program of considerable interest and coherence. By themselves, the pieces by Debussy, Martinu, Berg, Busoni, and Poulenc are quite familiar in recital, but they are often treated in isolation as token examples of twentieth century music, and thrown in with more conventional nineteenth century fare. This presentation may not show real linkages in style or substance, but a more thoughtful appreciation of modern approaches to clarinet writing is possible from hearing these pieces together. Surely, comparisons between Martinu's Sonatine (1956) and Poulenc's Sonata (1962) will reveal the strongest similarities of neo-Classical expression and techniques; and the side-by-side placement of Berg's Stücke (4) (1913) and Busoni's Elégie (1921) shows the most striking contrasts between the former's Expressionistic angst and the latter's Romantic sweetness, even though the works were composed within a few years of each other. Debussy's Première Rhapsodie (1910) may seem tangential, but it serves to introduce the other works quite well -- if not in style, then at least in anticipation of the many expressive and technical changes to come. Harmonia Mundi's sound quality is fine.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Sonatina for clarinet & piano, H. 356|
|Pieces (4) for clarinet and piano, Op. 5|
|Suite, for clarinet & piano, Op. 10, KiV 88|
|Sonata for clarinet & piano, FP 184|