The new CD Gumbo of music for clarinet and piano by Rob Patterson and Audrey Andrist not only refers to the premier recording of a work by the same name, but also of the overall eclectic range of works presented on the disc.
The Sonatina for clarinet and piano, subtitled “Gumbo” was composed in 2008 by John B Hedges. Hedges, born in 1974, was inspired by New Orleans R & B style grooves he had played in his youth. He has managed to create a spicy three-movement fusion showcasing virtuosic display in both the clarinet and piano parts. Patterson and Andrist give a dazzling performance of a work that well deserves a permanent place in the repertoire. The first movement, “Fast, rolling,” features a flashy introduction with wild trills in the clarinet; material which later returns. The movement, as might be expected, is highly rhythmic, replete with fast triplet passages and syncopation. There are instances of note bending and flutter tonguing reinforcing the jazz quality of the piece. The movement makes use of a “crab-like sonata form” where the recap occurs in reverse. The melancholy “Slow blues” features long lines in the clarinet, showcasing Patterson’s rich, luscious tone quality and control. The lines occur over a low, recurrent progression in the piano left hand which Hedges calls a “quasi-chaccone”. The movement builds in intensity in a broad arch and then recedes recalling opening material. The final rollicking “Shuffle” movement rounds out the work and features dynamic interchanges between the clarinet and piano in what Hedges describes as a “sonata-rondoish” movement.
The longish, but effective transcription of this Bach violin sonata has four movements, alternating two slow and two fast. The slow movements feature long lines in the clarinet with decorative filigree in the piano right hand and moving bass lines in the left hand. The fast movements are contrapuntal with with treble and bass lines of relatively equal importance. In these, the duo creates wonderfully balanced lines bringing great clarity to the contrapuntal writing.
The last two works on the disc are perennial favorites of clarinetists, and it’s a pleasure to hear versions presented by Patterson and Andrist. The performances of the outer movements of Francis Poulenc’s Sonata are filled with many subtleties and nuances throughout. The slow “Romanza” movement receives an appropriately poignant treatment. The duo gives a sumptuous performance of Brahms’ F Minor Sonata. In the outer movements, the artistry of Andrist comes to the fore where she displays an extraordinary technique. Both performers in these movements give the music a completely organic feeling: passionate one moment, retiring the next, with highly artistic use of rubato. The second movement is beautifully phrased by Patterson, and in a movement so notorious for intonation challenges, he easily rises to the occasion. The third movement is filled with Viennese charm.