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Fancy that!
John DANKWORTH (1927-2010)
Suite for Emma (1987) [13.43]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-90)
Clarinet Sonata (1942) [11.18]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1940)
Le tombeau de Ravel (1949)[12.50]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vocalise, Op.34/10 [6.30]
Robert MUCZYNSKI (b.1929)
Time pieces (1984) [16.15]
André PREVIN (b.1929)
Passing fancy (1972)[2.36]
Fancy passing (1972) [1.28]
Alan Vivian (clarinet), Susanne Powell (piano)
rec. Llewellyn Hall, Canberra, August 1998
REVOLVE AJM 1314 [64.50] 

This CD is a re-release of a disc previously reviewed for this site by Gwyn Parry-Jones in April 2004. There is no change to the original disc, with the same cover design and identical notes, which take no cognizance of the death of Sir John Dankworth in 2010.
 
Dankworth was a real enthusiast for all kinds of music, not only the jazz by which he made his name and by which he is still remembered. He wrote Suite for Emma for Emma Johnson after she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, and it is hardly a jazz piece at all although some occasional inflections remind us of Dankworth’s roots especially in the jaunty scherzo which concludes the suite.
 
The Bernstein Sonata, on the other hand, was his first work to achieve prominence and the jazz influences are extremely apparent in some places despite the evidence of indebtedness to Hindemith in some of the passage-writing for the clarinet. One might be hard pushed to guess the composer, though; there is no evidence at all of the later Bernstein idiom here even in the arching melody of the Andantino.
 
Arthur Benjamin’s tribute to Ravel was originally written for viola but later rearranged for Gervase de Peyer, who recorded the clarinet version in the 1950s. Although Benjamin is almost entirely known nowadays for his light music, especially the ubiquitous Jamaican Rumba, the Tombeau is in fact a more substantial piece than either of its predecessors on the disc; and despite its origins it sounds ideally suited to the clarinet, as much so as the Rachmaninov Vocalise which follows it - although the Rachmaninov melody fits pretty well onto any instrument - although I would not like to hear it on the trombone.
 
The four Time pieces by Robert Muczynski (an American composer despite his Slovak name) are the most modern pieces on this disc. The composer explains in a booklet note: “The title of the work has nothing to do with mechanical clocks or watches. It is not a play on words but rather an awareness of the fact that everything exists in time: history, our lives and - in a special way - music.” If this means anything at all - and I rather suspect it doesn’t - it means that we should treat these pieces as absolute music, and as such they are really thoroughly enjoyable, the first movement rollicking joyfully along and the second movement a sustained melody over piano chords. These are followed by a jaunty scherzo and a finale which effectively constitute a Clarinet Sonata in everything but name.
 
The two Previn miniatures which conclude the disc again have a slightly jazzy feel to them; the first has indeed the flavour of a night-club improvisation, while the second has a sort of off-beat rumba rhythm. They make delightful encores and round off the disc neatly.
 
Alan Vivian is an excellent player throughout, relishing the jazz influences in the Dankworth, Bernstein and Previn pieces, and fully in control of his instrument in all registers with never a suspicion of a squeak or squawk. Susanne Powell is a fully supportive accompanist, well balanced with the clarinet in a ripe and resonant acoustic. If the programme appeals, this is well worth a listen.
 
Paul Corfield Godfrey 

See also review by Gwyn Parry-Jones

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