David Orlowsky / Vogler Quartet

Mozart: Klarinettenquintett; Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind

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This pair of clarinet quintets from the revivified Sony Classical label presents a performer and a composer who have both been shaped by Jewish vernacular materials, and the combination delivers everything you hope it will. Osvaldo Golijov's Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind was composed 1994, before this Argentine composer entered a period of sustained popularity. Unlike his later riotously genre-crossing style, this one focuses on his own Jewish musical background. The music is derived from the klezmer genre, and the basic vocabulary of the solo clarinet part is strongly marked by klezmer sounds as well as by Jewish religious melodic elements. But the work is not really classicized klezmer chamber music of the sort that has been recorded by Israeli singer Chava Alberstein. The klezmer element is concentrated in the clarinet part, while the Vogler Quartet accompanies the clarinet with varying degrees of dissonance in straight rhythms. This in turn pushes the clarinet, as it were, to more extreme assertions of its own identity, expressed in sounds that stretch the instrument's capabilities. As usual with Golijov it's an interesting dialogue between traditions, but it wouldn't work without a player who both is comfortable with the klezmer idiom, as clarinetist David Orlowsky clearly is. And what takes the album from good to extraordinary is the utterly lyrical yet superbly controlled performance of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581, from Orlowsky and the Stuttgart-based Vogler Quartet. Orlowsky is not the only player who reaches high levels in both classical and vernacular music, but he's in sparse company with this fine release that effectively combines a repertory work with an innovative contemporary piece that is situated in yet not confined by the surrounding world of popular music. Strongly recommended.

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