English clarinetist and composer Peter Furniss is a member of the European wind octet Improprera (a traveling company that improvises operas) and by August 2007 held a chair in at least three major British orchestras in addition to maintaining a busy schedule as a solo recitalist. Furniss favors a very even and silvery tone; one can hardly hear any breath in his playing, it is so clean. His second recital disc, Time Pieces for Clarinet Classics, is a wide-ranging selection of American works for clarinet and piano, including the world-premiere recordings of Michael Kaulkin's American Standard (1993) and Richard Dudas' Sonata (2004). Although chronologically the program is weighted toward selections from 1981 forward, none of this music is particularly difficult from a listening standpoint; perhaps the Dudas is the most challenging of all, mainly due to its angularity and fortissimo writing for the clarinet -- the music is mainly tonal. The title piece, by Robert Muczynski, is the most consistently interesting among these works owing to its variety of harmony and moods, though Victor Babin's Hillandale Waltzes (1942) is a charmer, being a skewed set of variations on a polite tune by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, which Babin then proceeds to bend out of shape in various ways. The weakest performance on Time Pieces is that of Leonard Bernstein's Sonata (1942); by comparison, the recording Stanley Drucker made of this work in 1970 has a little more character, not to mention more wood.
Peter Furniss' Time Pieces is a disc primarily of interest to clarinet players, and indeed, the uniformity and precision of Furniss' clarinet tone will be awe inspiring to some. That it seems a little lacking at times in sheer presence and expressiveness may be in part due to Clarinet Classics' rather dry and distant recording; nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that accompanist David Leiher Jones makes a very fine showing here as well.