MusicWeb

This is a feast for those addicted to the liquid legato of the clarinet. Or, as they used to say in the days of moustachioed heroes of the instrument, clarionet or clarinette. The hero here is Cristo Barrios and his accomplished partner is Clinton Cormany. Together they put forward a largely delightful collection. It ranges, seemingly ambling, from Vaughan Williams to Caccini to Duparc, thence to Schumann and then back to Ravel, before we suddenly encounter Cole Porter, Strauss and end with Obradors. The programme ranges from the nineteenth to the early-ish twentieth centuries though with the Caccini – programmed between VW and Sibelius (eh?) – as a sop to Aria antiche. In fact programming is quixotic to say the least and I rather got the impression that this recital could have followed in any order whatsoever. Still, that’s the prerogative of the performers I suppose – or Divine Art.

The disc’s sub-title is A recital of art-song in transcription. These arrangements are faithful to the original songs but we should in all candour fight to resist the temptation to judge the transcriptions too closely. It’s the nature of the transcriptive beast that the clarinet will tend to smooth out the more peppery moments in these songs. Thus that Caccini becomes just slightly too withdrawn and mellow. And the de Falla invariably loses something of its tang and taste – there’s not quite enough bite. Which is not to complain of the performances, which are very sensitive indeed, more to make the obvious point that the clarinet is sometimes an imperfect medium for this kind of thing.

The Ravel, perhaps surprisingly, comes off quite well but the Debussy, however attractively played, lacks a certain intimacy. The Barrios-Cormany duo relishes the teasing opening flourish of the Porter; then Cormany turns on the vamp and ragtime and Barrios broadens his tone. They find the romantic chanson of Poulenc’s Les chemins de l’amour very much to their liking and deal sensitively with Fauré’s Les berceaux, which in transcription is often simply played too loudly. Not here. The Obradors ends the recital with a ruffle of Franco-Spanishry.

Given that the programme is predicated on song it’s sensible of Divine Art to give us the texts – the originals and English translations where necessary.

—Jonathan Woolf