Darius Milhaud

Duo concertant, for clarinet & piano, Op. 351

    Description by Jeremy Grimshaw

    There is a certain paradoxical quality to the music of Darius Milhaud, a disjunction between the lighthearted sentiments to which the composer seemed continually drawn and the meticulous craftsmanship he exercised in conveying them. Likewise, the rather systematic manner in which he expanded his oeuvre -- he wrote a series of concertos for virtually every Western orchestral instrument, and made good on his early and curious promise to compose exactly 18 string quartets -- not only resulted in a very tidy catalog, but also in a thorough and keen sensitivity toward the idiomatic expressive qualities of each instrument for which he wrote. It is no surprise, then, that although Milhaud is not quite a household name, he is well represented in the standard repertoire lists of virtually every Western instrument. In the canon of clarinet music, Milhaud's Duo concertant for clarinet and piano enjoys regular appearances in recitals and has appeared on several recordings. Its owes its popularity to a mixture of virtuosity and sheer pleasantness; on one hand, it never resorts to sentimental pandering, or on the other, to empty pyrotechnics. Milhaud's characteristic harmonic twists, curious chromatic inflections, and momentary tonal diversions ultimately serve to add subtle, modern nuances to a lucid and unassuming expressivity. Milhaud had already familiarized himself with the possibilities of the clarinet/piano duo in his Sonatine, Op. 100 (1927), the Eglogue-Madrigal, arranged from his Four Sketches in 1941, and the Caprice, Op. 335 (1954). Accordingly, the Duo concertant exudes a breezy confidence in exploiting the clarinet's nuances of ornament and articulation and in moving between a clear solo-accompaniment format and more integrated, polyphonically oriented textures. Cast in a single movement lasting around eight minutes, the piece begins in a moderate tempo with a jaunty, fanfare-like theme in the clarinet. Initially, the piano provides a simple chordal accompaniment, but as the piece progresses, the two instruments increasingly tread on each other's territory; as gestures in the piano's treble range come to the fore, the clarinet meanders into curious polytonal counterpoint or echoes its initial fanfares in the background. In the lyrical middle section, the clarinet is given the full spotlight, the plaintive melody underscored by steady but sometimes poignantly dissonant chords in the piano. The playful fanfare-like material from the opening returns to close the work, ending with a quick flourish of virtuosic aplomb.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Claves CD 1804
    2017 Brilliant Classics 95449
    2014 Chandos CHAN 10804
    2010 Oehms Classics 114
    2006 Centaur Records 2809
    2002 Centaur Records CRC2587
    2000 Arcobaleno 9434
    1995 Arte Nova 30465
    1994 Clarinet Classics 01
    1994 Gallo 573
    1994 Crystal Records Dist. 733
    1994 Chandos 6589
    1993 Denon Records 79282
    1993 ASV 621
    1992 Koch Schwann 313102
    BBC Music Magazine 126
    Ambitus 97893
    Jecklin 272