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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Mika Stoltzman and Richard Stoltzman, Palimpsest, Bach, Ravel, McKinley, Zorn, Piazzolla

The life and musical duo of marimba virtuoso Mika Stoltzman and renowned clarinet master Richard Stoltzman join together for a powerful tandem on Palimpsest (Avie 2409). It has the virtue of introducing a widely-ranging series of both rearranged classics and contemporary modern works in an unflagging variety that shows off the two artists and the surprisingly rich timbral musicality they conjure between the two of them.

The opening music centers around two rearranged works by JS Bach, the "Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue" here for solo clarinet, then clarinet and added bandoneon (with H. Del Curto, see below) poignantly for the Fugue.

Then we hear the "Chaconne" in a special version for marimba. The fugal theme idea takes center of place again here on the marimba and gets articulated nicely and effectively for the warm wooden tone that is the instrument's hallmark.

From there we go into the ravishing "Pavanne our une infante defunte" by Ravel, which sounds all the more striking as a clarinet-marimba statement. The lyric brilliance takes on new life and vibrancy and we are the better for it.

From there William Thomas McKinley (1935-2015) emerges in sound with "Mostly Blues Nos. 2, 8 & 12." It is contemporary modernist as well as enriched by US Jazz-ish folkways.

The John Zorn title work "Palimpsest"is a very idiomatically Modern pulsating work with an attractive marimba motor-sensory pulsation and a wonderfully rangy and dynamic clarinet part. It is the signature piece of the album in more ways than just the title, as it puts everything into focus. A wonder. Four minutes and 44 seconds of focused brilliance is what we get.

Piazzolla nicely rolls into the concluding portion of the program with two short pieces, the vibrant Argentinian-cum-Modern Classical "Tango Etude No. 5" and then a substantial "Fuga y misterio" which too has earthy folk qualities and augments the duo effectively with bandoneon (Hector Del Curto) and Pedro Giraudo on double bass.

The high artistry of Mika and Richard and their strong sense of what the clarinet-marimba joint sonarity can be makes everything come together in this fascinating and very worthy CD. Anyone who appreciates the two instruments and their legacy will find this fascinating and moving. The music is well worth hearing repeatedly. Kudos and viva the Stoltzmans! Recommended.

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