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In April 2014 Leslie Craven recorded a number of Roma Cafolla’s works. He was joined by violinist Lana Trotovšek, pianist Yoko Misumi, harpist Katherine Thomas, bodhrán player Patrick King and flautist Boris Bizjak, who also recorded and engineered the sessions at Wyastone Studios on Hedone Records. The result was a 2CD set. .
Translation of review from De Klarinet by Monique Grubben
Roma Cafolla ….was inspired by LC to write several works for clarinet and other combinations of instruments………… blossomed her love for the clarinet, and the result is now before me in the form of this double CD. If I had to choose one word to extol the CD I would choose lyrical. The music Cafolla writes is extremely melodic and expressive. Her Irish background can be recognised in some of the Celtic melodies.
Many of the works included on the CD were originally written for clarinet and piano or clarinet but have been arranged by Cafolla herself to include the other musicians who have also been given a role.
On the CD the standard format is clarinet and piano, sometimes supplemented by flute or violin, harp and bodhran.
The CD opens beautifully. The perfect start to the day. Warm full sound, relaxed and everything is still open. Leaving lots of scope for the rest of the CD to open up. A beautifully chosen first work for the CD. It’s Canzone for Clarinet and Piano. A work in which Craven’s strong character, without forcing his tone and in a relaxed way can be heard. It is that, combined with the music of Cafolla, its lyrical melodies, that makes it very pleasant to listen to.
In other works, it is at times less lyrical and dreamy, but because Craven makes a round tone, it never sounds sharp or ugly. What one hears is Craven has a fantastic feeling for the music, the phrasing and the layers that are in it and this comes from knowing the composer.
Never rushed and always with controlled timing. No piece is too long. The last piece on the first CD is a little light relief after all the lyrical pieces so far. ( Ambidexterity aside) It is different in character and therefore fits well on the first CD.
Of the second CD the Coastal Suite jumps out for me. This suite is written for clarinet and harp with the fourth with addition of flute. In this next-to-last movement of this suite we hear the flautist Boris Bizjak. This part has been specially adapted for this CD to enable Bizjak to play on the CD.
I imagined myself on the beach with a warm and relaxing holiday feeling. In the booklet that accompanies the CD we find that Cafolla had written the suite after a visit to the Inishowen peninsular in Donegal. She was inspired by the vista looking out at the confluence of the River Foyle and the Atlantic Ocean.
The second CD closes with a Gig Saw for Clarinet violin …………. etc . It begins with a whistful melody between the beautiful sounds of clarinet and harp slowly leads to a lively Irish Jig and through different characters, Gig Saw ends finally with the bodhran. And a beautiful finale!
A number works on this CD are very good pieces that would be playable by and suitable for amateur players. For example, the Canzone, the opening work is good Useful as material for a clarinettist C – D – level.
Brahms & Rota
For those who are not yet familiar with the clarinet repertoire of Nino Rota: get this CD in the house! I played Rota’s Sonata (1945) for clarinet and piano a few years ago, during my final exam UM. Known for his film scores; the music from the Godfather has become world famous of course but at the time this clarinet Sonata was not known to me. The piece grabbed me directly while I played it: the beautiful lyrical sounds, colours, melody lines. It took me back to that time, on hearing of this version, played by Leslie of Craven and Michael Pollock. I think they play it exactly as it should be: the first part is very cantabile, romantic and with flowing lines. The second part as it is written: pensive, mysterious, with a focus on the lowest register of the clarinet with his dark, deep sounds. But then the last part: very fast and with virtuoso passages, a grand finale!
The Trio for clarinet, cello and piano was written in 1973. While listening I get direct film associations. The music of the first part is light, virtuoso, with clear recurring themes. A beautiful opening scene for a movie. The slow movement is laden with film melodrama : brilliant lines in all of the instruments, sometimes pensive, but always passionate, cantabile, con amore. We remain in the film world but the last movement has a completely different nature: short, melodic themes generated to fit a comedy or maybe a cartoon. This trio is also beautifully performed by Leslie of Craven (clarinet), Stjepan Hauser (cello) and Yoko Misumi (piano).
The music of Nino Rota is not all. The CD opens with the two Brahms Sonatas, which need no explanation. Brahms is the slightly heavier counterpart of the work of Nino Rota, but suits the CD project and they go very well together. Personally, I am really fond of the clarinet playing of Leslie Craven and his interpretations of Brahms. Anyway, I recommend this CD full of masterpieces it is a must!
Saskia Martens – De Klarinet Magazine (Issue no 83 Autumn 2012)
A virtuoso recital C.D. of refreshing new tonal works for Clarinet
Leslie Craven clarinet (Principal Clarinettist of the Orchestra of Welsh National
Rachel Attwell piano
Katherine Thomas harp & celtic harp
Jonathan Burgess flute
Tom Jackson clarinet
(Image for CD cover by kind permission of June Emerson www.JuneEmersonArt.com )
“Congratulations on a terrific CD. It really shows not only a wide range of musical styles but also a diverse palette of colours rarely heard on the clarinet. Well done Les, when‘s the next one due? “
Andy Roberts, Past Chairman Clarinet & Saxophone Society of Great Britain
Extract from review by John Playfair in Clarinet and Saxophone – journal of the Clarinet and Saxophone society of Great Britain
“This Cd is advertised as 80 minutes of tonal and lyrical contemporary music, and that is exactly what you get. Apart from the slightly more “with it” solo Sonata by Tom Jackson (who also duets with Craven in a charming suite by Christopher Ball)
………and almost everything seems to have been written for Craven himself. I was particularly taken by the two witty pieces by French naval clarinettist Daniel Bimbi , and Christopher Ball’s delightfully simple folk somgs with harp. But everything on the disc is enjoyable………….Craven plays …with a svelte woody sound and fluent technique ……we should be grateful to him for introducing us to so much new material and the CD is well worth acquiring by all aspiring recitalists.”
This extract from Paul Kaiser, a reviewer of the Dutch clarinet magazine De Klarinet.
(a rough translation from the original Dutch)
“Expressions is a CD of a variety of music for clarinet in several settings… the title Expressions is well conceived however because every piece is relaxing and has something to say …..every number is worth the effort of listening to…. Leslie Craven has a solid sound and although not a young man, one does not hear this in his playing. He sounds like a young virtuoso, a vigorous musician and plays the pieces enthusiastically, and expressively. His sound is warm and focused and his tone has feeling. ……….he plays on his own design mouthpiece, the `Leslie Craven model Mouthpiece `. The opening work El Casot by Daniel Bimbi describes romantic adventures in the style of Flamenco, Czardas and Klezmer. … One can hear that Bimbi is himself a clarinettist…. the music sounds very natural and lies comfortably for the instrument.
Vasco Hexel’s – Sonatina Lyrico – the name says everything : lyric music….a film score with only the picture missing ….Christopher Ball’s…Music for Youth – is nice, lively swinging and jazzy. You hear the two clarinettists playing a game with each other ….it has been cleverly written. In the folksongs by Ball the clarinet comes to the fore as a folk instrument ….and the combination with harp sounds terribly good. The work of Tom Jackson – Sonata for Clarinet Alone is in my view the strongest piece on the disc ….catches ones attention immediately and is direct and modern…the clarinet sings and tells a story….one hears the clarinettist has to give everything to make this contemporary work succeed ….that is the strength of a solo work. In short a CD with music to dream and relax to. Well worth buying, a welcome addition to the standard repertoire.”
The latest addition to the ever more diverse Clarinet Classics catalogue
is Expressions CC0059, a delightfully impressive C.D. of exciting, new, virtuosic,
instantly appealing and tuneful clarinet repertoire, ideal for inclusion
in concert and recital. This entire CD of almost 80 minutes of music is designed
to appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners; these compositions were inspired
by and written for Leslie Craven, one of Britain’s leading exponents
of the English School of clarinet playing.
A wonderful “Pot Pourri”, a veritable
kaleidoscope of clarinet and piano, clarinet and harp, solo
clarinet, clarinet duet and a trio with flute and piano, this C.D. will
captivate the general public and clarinet enthusiasts alike. The myriad
diverse styles and moods captured will appeal to many different tastes.
Leslie Craven is joined by virtuoso friends: Rachel Attwell piano, Katherine
Thomas harp, Tom Jackson clarinet and flautist Jonathan Burgess.
displays a sparkling treasure trove of Clarinet and Piano showpieces. The
first piece on the disc – the Flamenco/Czardas/Klezmer inspired “El
Casot” by Daniel Bimbi is a real “show stopper” and precedes
the romantic “Sonatina Lyrico” by Vasco Hexel which begins with
a flowing melody followed by a slow, sensuous, jazz influenced Ballad and
helter skelter finale “Presto Scherzando” leading to Christopher
Ball’s brilliant and evocative, unaccompanied “Invocations
A “Better Day” by Gary Schocker
has a wonderful refreshing, cool, flowing melody and is liberally laced with
virtuosity from both players in the final section reminiscent of the style
of Bernstein. The wonderfully melodic and brilliant Duet “Music
for Youth” and Folk Song arrangements
by Christopher Ball are in stark contrast with the cold, ghostly angularity
of the music in “Hauntings” (de) composed by master of T.V. and
film scores Anthony Wakefield.
A brief foray into the quasi “avant
garde” comprising a very short
but highly effective solo clarinet “Sonata for Clarinet
Jackson will prove that this kind of music can have audience appeal and will
reward those adventurous enough to listen, not only with some lugubrious melody
but also with some advanced clarinet techniques such as “multiphonics”, “timbral” quarter
tone trills, the “growl” and “flutter tonguing”.
quasi – romantic trio for Clarinet, Flute and Piano by Bimbi with sultry
Latin themes is rounded off with a highly amusing and brilliant pyrotechnical
display in the form of a musical chase that will leave listeners breathless
and with a smile on their faces.
Finally, the simple yet beautifully arranged
folk song for clarinet and harp, the lovely lullaby “Suo
famous in the film “Empire
of the Sun”) is guaranteed to bring a warm emotional glow, a poignant
end to a really eclectic mix of music.
“Expressions” CC0059 “embraces
specialism”, true to the
ethos of Clarinet Classics but also has something for everyone. This great
value C.D. of new but entirely tonal and melodic repertoire will undoubtedly
appeal to those new to clarinet music as well as the Clarinet “Gourmand”.
the music is approached with great sensitivity to style and presentation
of the composers’ intentions and the results are (in the words of Victoria
Soames Samek) – “Gorgeous”.
Most of the music on this disc is
published by and available from June
Emerson Wind Music LTD.
Photographs from the recordings at Nimbus Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate
Pictures of Leslie and Michael and the trio by Terence Donnelly and David Thomas
Christopher Ball Concerto CD
Leslie recorded the Concerto by Christopher Ball two years ago and it has received great reviews (see press reviews)
The Christopher Ball Clarinet Concerto first movement is listed for Grade 7 in the current ABRSM clarinet syllabus
Listen to extracts
Christopher Ball The Piper of Dreams CD
This disc, including the world première recording of Christopher Ball’s new Clarinet Quintet, was released in June 2014.