French Clarinet Rhapsody

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"This is a convenient recital, presenting—unusually, it turns out, in a single program—the clarinet-and-piano works of Debussy and his contemporary Florent Schmitt, plus those of the demi-Six Honegger, Milhaud, and Poulenc (the other three were Auric, Durey, and Tailleferre), who were more or less a generation younger. Despite a name that sounds as German as, say, “John Barbirolli,” clarinetist Ralph Manno is a native German, making the program all the more atypical. This disc follows soon after Oehms’s release of a two-CD set featuring Manno and Alfredo Perl in music of Brahms; both that and the present disc, however, turn out to be reissues of 1995 recordings.

Manno’s performance of Debussy’s Rhapsodie (there never was a deuxième) is languorous at first, then fluid and dynamic as the music demands. His sound, appropriately international rather than characteristically German, is attractive and well focused, and his technique and control are impressive. The aptly named Petite pièce, written as a sight-reading exercise, is smooth and expressive.

The Lorraine-born Florent Schmitt (1870–1958) should be better known; he is remembered today mostly for the extravagant, almost expressionistic La Tragédie de Salomé. The present Andantino, by contrast, is brief, modest, and perhaps even a bit sentimental...

If the composers who made up Les Six had any musical trait in common (and Milhaud, for one, denied that they did), it is a quintessentially French irreverence, even impudence. (Two of the movements of Milhaud’s sonatine are marked Très rude.) The Honegger and Milhaud sonatines were both composed in the 1920s; the former is an aphoristic work in three movements lasting only six minutes all together; Manno plays with impressive command here... The late, folksy Duo Concertant is an attractive example of Milhaud’s Provençal style; the slight Caprice, running under two minutes, serves as a sort of encore...this disc can be recommended for its overview of the core French clarinet recital repertoire."

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: OC 114


  • UPC: 4260034861145


  • Label: Oehms Classics


  • Composer: Arthur Honegger, Claude Debussy, Darius Milhaud, Florent Schmitt, Francis Poulenc


  • Performer: Alfredo Perl, Ralph Manno