Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Deep Light: Weber, Finzi, RVW, Schumann, Francaix

Cristo Barrios - Deep Light
Deep Light - Weber, Finzi, RVW, Schumann, Francaix; Cristo Barrios, Andrew West; Ibs classical Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 4 June 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An engaging recital which takes us from the serious to the lighter, from Germany to England to the south of France

This new disc of music for clarinet and piano, Deep Light, on the Ibs classical label, comes from the Spanish clarinettist Cristo Barrios and British pianist Andrew West. An eclectic, yet satisfying recital, it moves from Carl Maria von Weber and Robert Schumann, through RVW and Gerald Finzi to Jean Francaix.

One fascinating feature of the recital is that there are no sonatas, all the composers are exploring wider genres from Weber's grand showpiece duo, Grand Duo Concertant, and Schumann's evocatively Romantic sketches, Phantasiestucke, to RVW and Finzi's collections of short pieces, Six Studies on English Folk Song and Five Bagatelles, ending with Jean Francaix variation form, Tema con Variazioni.


Though he wrote one of the great Romantic operas in Der Freischutz, Weber was very much a transitional figure. Younger than Beethoven, yet older than Schubert, he died before both of them. His music similarly straddles the classical and the Romantic. Much of Weber's clarinet music (including the concertos) was written for a friend, the noted virtuoso Heinrich Baerman, the clarinettist with the Munich Court Orchestra, but the Grand Duo Concertant seems to have been written for Johann Hermstedt (for whom Louis Spohr wrote his concertos) with whom Weber premiered the work in 1816.

Himself a notable virtuoso pianist, Weber made the Grand Duo Concertant a real duo with both instruments equally challenged. Barrios and West play the piece with a nicely understated brilliance, and a fine sense of partnership. The showy yet engaging opening movement is followed by Weber at his most Romantic with Barrios displaying focused, plangent singing tone. The final rondo is charmingly perky.

They follow this with Finzi's Five Bagatelles, produced at various periods during the Second World War when three were premiered at the National Gallery concerts. This is prime Finzi, but it gives us a chance to hear him in unbuttoned, less intense mood, as typified by the opening bagatelle, though with Finzi the thoughtful is never far away, and the second and fourth are primely thoughtful, with a lyrical third and a positively perky Fughetto to finish.

RVW's Six Studies in English Folksong are tiny, in each he takes a melody and teases it out, opting for an attractively expressive simplicity. The works were originally written for cello and piano in 1926 for cellist May Mukle. But Barrios and West certainly more than convince in these gentle, evocative yet highly expressive performances. In particular, Barrios makes the emotions implicit in the music come over well without over doing things.

Schumann's Phantasiestucke have no formal structure yet no explicit story. Instead, the composer is exploring his own fantasy world and Barrios and West respond well to the fluidity and flexibility in the music, making it ebb and flow. Yet the couple also bring a classical poise and elegance to the music, a nice balance indeed.

We finish with Jean Francaix's delightful Tema con Varizioni, a fairly innocuous title for such a witty and engaging work. Francaix was something of a maverick, his dates (1912-1997) and the work's composition date of 1974 might suggest something modish and modernist, but Francaix's work would in fact be comfortable in the world of Francis Poulenc.

It was written as a text piece for the Paris Conservatoire, and so underneath the witty and entertaining exterior there is a strong technical challenge. Barrios certainly does not let this show, and he and West conclude the disc with a lovely entertaining finale.

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) - Grand Duo Concertant
Gerald Finzi (1901-1956) - Five Bagatelles Op. 23
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) - Six Studies in English Folksong
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Phantasiestucke
Jean Francaix (1912-1997) - Tema Con Variazione
Cristo Barrios (clarinet)
Andrew West (piano)
Recorded at the Auditorio Antonio Lecuona, Conservatorio Superio de Music de Canarias, Tenerife, 10-12 March 2011
lbs Classical LBS42018 1CD [62.33]
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog
  • Music of Today: Philharmonia's 2018/19 Composers Academy- concert review
  • Musicianship & sheer engagement: Brixton Chamber Orchestra's Live Lounge at the Department Store (★★★★) - concert review
  • Texture, bite and tang: Thierry Fischer and the OAE in Sibelius (★★★★) - concert review
  • Whatever the tradition, people are people and music is music: cellist Matthew Barley on Sir John Tavener, Indian music, collaboration & more - interview
  • Musical delights: Gluck's Bauci e Filemone and Orfeo from the Mozartists (★★★★) - opera review
  • Sheherazade: a work which spans both Persian and Western classical music (★★★) - Cd review
  • Thrilling pianism: Igor Levit in Ronald Stevenson's Passacaglia on DSCH - concert review
  • Guitar & strings; Morgan Szymanski & Benyounes Quartet at Conway Hall  - concert review
  • A Victorian 'Love Island' - Handel's Partenope from Hampstead Garden Opera - opera review 
  • An eclectic mix: I chat to Clare Stewart of the vocal group Apollo5 about their latest release, O Radiant Dawn  - interview
  • Polish connections: Grazyna Bacewicz, Witold Lutoslawski, Henryk Gorecki from Southbank Sinfonia  (★★★★) - CD review
  • The textures of sound: Bastard Assignments at Mountview in Peckham (★★★) - concert review
  • Clive Osgood: Sacred Choral Music (★★★½)  - CD review
  • Delicatessen II - More Choice Morsels of Early English Song (★★★) - CD review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a comment

Popular Posts this month