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Louis CAHUZAC (1880-1960)
Fantaisie sur un vieil air champêtre [7:12]
Pastorale cévenole [5:15]
Cantilène [4:22]
Variations sur un air Pays d’Oc [8:59]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937)
Canzonetta [3:19]
Alamiro GIAMPERI (1863-1963)
Il Carnivale di Venezia [6:59]
Paul JEANJEAN (1874-1928)
Clair Matin [4:48]
Arabesques [4:14]
Ballade à Ophélie [4:22]
Nikolai RIMSKY KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Le Coq d’Or [9:32]
Guy Dangain (clarinet)
Misaki Baba (piano)
rec. 2003
PHAIA PHU022 [59:39]

The focus of this reissued disc is the French clarinettist Louis Cahuzac (1880-1960). I’ve reviewed some of this eminent musician’s recordings on the Guild label, as I have a disc on Clarinet Classics which presents all-Cahuzac works. In this last case Philippe Cuper was a pupil of a pupil of Cahuzac, but Phaia’s reissue of a 2003 recording is played by Guy Dangain, a first generation pupil who took classes with Cahuzac and performed in an orchestra conducted by him.
Cahuzac’s music is richly Mediterranean and beautifully written for the clarinet, as one would expect, and possesses a strikingly atmospheric quality. Dangain responds to the challenges of the Fantaisie sur un vieil air champêtre with veiled sensitivity. He shapes the faster and slower sections of this tripartite character study with great assurance. His tone is not as wide or as romantically warmed as Cuper’s in that competing Clarinet Classics disc, and of the two it’s Cuper who’s the more extrovert and declamatory. Dangain’s aesthetic is less knowing than Cuper’s; and its supple, less sophisticated take is plainer and by no means as showy. Both clarinettists explore the music with valid responses, and some will feel that Dangain’s less obviously glamorous tonal qualities suit the music’s limpidity the more affectingly. That may well be the case in Pastorale cévenole as it might also be in the joyful Cantilène where Dangain’s clarity and astute phrasing mean that he avoids Cuper’s bumpy snatching of breath. Both men approach the music’s manifold roulades with great enjoyment. The recordings faithfully mirror the tonal qualities: a rather cool acoustic for Dangain and a much warmer, indeed balmier one for Cuper. How you respond to the two performances of the lovely Variations sur un air Pays d’Oc largely depends on your preferences in tonal matters.
Dangain doesn’t give us an all-Cahuzac recital, as he adds favourite pieces played by his eminent predecessor. These include Pierné’s Canzonetta and the technical tour de force that is Alamiro Giamperi’s Il Carnivale di Venezia. It’s good to hear the two charmers by Paul Jeanjean, a well selected and contrasting pair that explore refined lyricism as well as Gallic flair. Dangain contributes his own captivatingBallade à Ophélie and the recital ends with a confident and technically accomplished performance of Rimsky’s Le Coq d’Or.
It was an astute move to restore this recital, not least in the light of the continuing restoration of Cahuzac’s own recorded legacy.
Jonathan Woolf