Three Out of Two: The Chemistry of CD Duos reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

A duet can be a three out of two thing: three being the “one more” that happens when the two go past what they know.

Add to that the special case of the clarinet and other instruments: how Mozart composed his Concerto and his Quintet for clarinet when he met Anton Stadler. And when Brahms, nearing the end of his life, met Richard Mühlfeld, he wrote him a Trio, a Quintet and a couple of Sonatas.

Could it be that the clarinet is so close to the human voice that it naturally takes the part of  singer in the traditional duet with the piano?

Ronn Yedidia: Impromptu, Nocturne, and World Dance. Alexander Fiterstein,Clarinet* Ronn Yedidida, Piano. Naxos.

yediThe update we have to that tradition are the five compositions for clarinet recorded here that Ronn Yedidia wrote within a three year period of meeting clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein. I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing Fiterstein live making five with the Pacifica Quartet in Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet. He’s cool.

Yedidia’s music is rich in classical and ethnic (including klezmer) associations around the Mediterranean and  areas of Eastern Europe plus the Hebraic and Arabic traditions in Israel’s Galilea. His music is post-romantic in its respect for melodic themes and emotional references to celebration, grief, contemplation and exotic settings. At times, as in Concertino, the deep expanse of textures is symphonic, and elsewhere there are impressionist vistas, romantic songs and graceful dancing.

Five of the works are duets between Yedidia’s crisp piano and the graceful warmth of Fiterstein who plays his clarinet with the flawless technique, human tone, and the phrasing of a seasoned singer. In Concertino the duo is joined by the string trio comprising Arnaud Sussman, violin; Melissa Reardon, viola; and cellist Nicholas Canellakis. This is a companionable album for listening at home or on the road.

WolakWolak & Donelly: Common Ground. Alma Records.

Refreshment is the extra thing that comes out of the fusion between jazz pianist-composer Chris Donnelly and classical clarinetist Kornel Wolak. Donnelly is a fearless improvisor who runs his phrasing on a unique sense of rhythm. I expected his fourth album would more likely go down the Bill Evans avenue, but Donnelly’s duet is the Allegro from Brahms Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, done like it was his native idiom. Wolak is a native of the European classics, but even on pieces like the virtuosic “Flight of the Bumblebee” that follows, or a Gershwin medley, well, he’s more Benny Goodman than Reginald Kell—that is to say Wolak really is more swing than sway. Hence, the sense of refreshment: the pops are dignified here and the classics come alive, so much so, that the dynamic pair dare the vivacious fourth movement of the Brahms Sonata, and segué unself-consciously to finale in Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom. There is nothing common about their ground except in it there is something for everyone.




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