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Monday, April 13, 2015

Carl Vollrath, Past Recollections, Music for Clarinet and Piano Vol. 1

Carl Vollrath comments in the liners to his Past Recollections, Music for Clarinet and Piano Vol. 1 (Navona 5988) that had he been born 10 or 20 years earlier he might have been considered a mainstream composer, but now he perhaps is "a Neo-Impressionist-pandiatonic-jazz-blues [stylist] with some folks elements thrown in the mix." For that reason the title Past Recollections seems apt to him. I do not disagree.

This is music with a straightforward, well-worked directness. Michael Norsworthy on clarinet and Yoko Hagino on piano give us perfectly idiomatic performances of these 11 relatively short compositions, with the title track being a four-part suite. The quasi-pan-ethnicity of the music communicates with elegance and folkishness, the titles alluding to affinities with Copland, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Delius and Piazzolla.

There is a straightforward lyricism at times, and a dance-like colloquial feel at others, but always a nicely unpretentious air of somewhat complicated simplicity. The melodiousness of the works seems perfectly fitted to the qualities of clarinet and piano.

Clarinetist Norsworthy refers to them all as "character pieces," and surely the sort of clarinet writing we hear bears that out. Vollrath clearly takes to the instrument and its many sound qualities, carving out of ebony a sort of timeless personal yet somehow universal set of expressions.

This is music that engages with a homespun beauty. It goes well with any season, but spring seems as good a time to hear it as any.

In all a compendium of works that comes off with great success. It's a beauty!

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