CD: Fancy That!

Works for clarinet and piano

Review by Rita Crews

Published in The Studio
The Music Teachers' Association of New South Wales Limited

We have be very fortunate this quarter in having such a wonderful selection of CDs to present to members. Yet another highly recommended release is this disc of duo works featuring the clarinet talents of Alan Vivian accompanied by Suzanne Powell on piano. Whilst this is a disc to be enjoyed by all, clarinet players and teachers in particular will find it a must to add to their shelves. Interesting works and first-class performers are always a winning combination and both can be found on this disc.

In all there are six contemporary works on the disc: Suite for Emma by John Dankworth; Leonard Bernstein's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano; Le Tombeau de Ravel by Arthur Benjamin; Vocalise Op. 24/14 by Rachmaninov; Robert Muczynski's Time Pieces and Andre Previn's Passing Fancy and Fancy Passing, from which the title of the disc is cleverly adapted

The contrasting four movements of Suite for Emma whilst having conventional titles, have some most unconventional strains and I particularly liked Vivian's smooth rendition of the 'Scherzo' with its rich jazz overtones. The warm tones of the clarinet sound superb in the 'Grazioso' movement.of Bernstein's work, whilst Benjamin's Tombeau explores its full range during the clarinet's conversation with the piano; as well, the repeated-note motif has a haunting beauty of its own.

It is always interesting hearing instrumental vocalise and the Rachmaninov is no exception with this gentle work that demonstrates the warm beauty of the instrument. Then, in contrast, the four movements of Time Pieces once again have the clarinet and piano in deep conversation, at times in a rollicking explosion of sound, at times in exploring long, mellow lines or in creating a tense, brooding atmosphere. The last works, Previn's two cameos are a fitting end to this delightful disc. One slow, one fast ,it is obvious that Alan Vivian thoroughly enjoyed playing this finale to the collection.

In the hands of a master the clarinet can, or course, talk; and there is no doubt that Alan Vivian is one of thls country's finest virtuoso players in a career that has seen him both as soloist in his own right, as well as Principal in a number of orchestras. He is currently a senior lecturer at the CSM in Canberra.

As to the cover of the CD, I was most intrigued by the visual similarity of the clarinet with a licorice stick - probably an old 'clarinet joke" but works very well. Informative liner notes by the ABC's Colin Fox accompany the disc. Released on the Revolve label the disc is available at good record stores. Just look for the black licorice sticks on pink background: "Fancy that!"