Letters from Quarantine: Music for Solo Clarinet | Odradek Records ODRCD411

Letters from Quarantine: Music for Solo Clarinet


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Label: Odradek Records

Cat No: ODRCD411

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Instrumental

Release Date: 19th February 2021



The pandemic has compelled artists to find new ways of channelling their creativity. Portuguese clarinettist Rui Travasso turned the experience of isolation into something positive with his lockdown recording of solo clarinet music, an extraordinary and powerful achievement.

As Rui Travasso writes in his artist statement, a feature of the album booklet: “This album was recorded entirely in my house during the confinement caused by COVID-19. It is, perhaps inevitably, a solo album because so much of life during a pandemic is conducted in isolation, without company or collaboration. The situation is analogous with being unjustly imprisoned and writing letters to those on the outside; an urgent need to communicate with those we cannot see but whom we can sense are there and receptive to listening.”

The clarinet is an instrument of real versatility, its mellow, woody timbre ranging flexibly between plangent melancholy, creamy lyricism and jaunty humour. These qualities have been most famously explored in accompanied works – especially concertos and quintets – but the solo clarinet repertoire offers a wealth of interesting music in which composers have sought to address the challenges of writing for an unaccompanied instrument by harnessing the clarinet’s unique qualities and highlighting its rich colours.

The album features a range of relatively recent repertoire. French composer Henri Tomasi’s Sonatine Attique is said to have been inspired by a night under the Greek stars near the Parthenon in Athens. The clarinet’s agile, jovial side is contrasted with sinuous, haunting passages. We hear a finely-crafted Sonata for Clarinet Solo by Dutch composer Rudolf Escher, who was influenced by the music of Debussy, Ravel and Mahler, and the apparently effortless Monolog no.3 by Swedish composer Erland von Koch, who was influenced by Bartók, Sibelius, Grieg and Hindemith.

There are more overt tributes to other composers, too: Gordon Jacob’s Five Pieces for Solo Clarinet include a lively, affectionate tribute to J.S. Bach, and contemporary Hungarian composer Béla Kovács is known for his set of Hommages to an array of different composers, from which we hear the dazzling Hommage ŕ M. Falla. Other contemporary works include the chant-based Antiphona V ‘Ave Maria’ by Norwegian composer Henrik Řdegaard, and the intricate Sonatina by Portuguese composer Sérgio Azevedo.

The Italian Giovanni Mattaliano is first and foremost a clarinettist, and his Zeta World is the perfect conclusion to a recital of solo clarinet music: a succinct piece of breathtaking technique and irresistible good humour.

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