(Pick Of The Month, October 1998)
Although described simply as 20th-century works, these pieces all dates from between 1965 and 1994 and provide a fascinating retrospective of the period. The performances are superlative in every way and should place this duo firmly in the front rank of contemporary music interpreters. In much of the music of this period, the formidable technical and intellectual demands placed on players can often produce sterile and cerebral results, yet here the clear understanding of form and structure is combined with genuine passion for the medium. While the disc is dominated by the clarinet, for which several unaccompanied pieces are included, pianist Alan Hicks produces some quite magical effects in Piers Hellawell’s evocative High Citadels which exploits strumming sounds from within the instrument. Equally attractive is Martin Butler’s Capistrano Song which mixes some beautiful electronic sounds with rhapsodic clarinet lines.
These more unusual textures are contrasted with pieces such as Maconchy’s Fantasia, which use the clarinet and piano format in a relatively traditional way and, at the other extreme, Sea/Air by Anthony Powers in which the writing for unaccompanied clarinet contains some startling virtuosity. Kate Romano’s playing throughout is exemplary, displaying both stunning technical prowess and a real flair for the dramatic potential of these works.
Performance ***** Sound *****