phases musica solis

Sam Boutris (clarinet)
Sophiko Simsive (piano)
rec. 2021/22; Firehouse 12, New Haven, USA
Reviewed as download from press preview
Musica Solis MS202401 [47]

Young clarinet player Sam Boutris here makes his recording debut with a recital that spans most of the 19th century and geographically covers large areas of Europe: France, Germany, Italy and Denmark. The technical demands are varied, too, from quite simple works to virtuoso pieces, giving a full size picture of his capabilities. Interestingly, several of the works were not originally conceived for clarinet; Robert Schumann’s Three Romances from 1849 was written for oboe and piano and first performed with violin and piano the following year. His better known Fantasy Pieces Op. 73, composed a year or so earlier, on the other hand, was for clarinet and it seems logical that Boutris wanted to give the later works a make-over for his own instrument. Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ungarese is another work that has been transformed. It began life as a concertante piece for viola and orchestra, only to be reworked for bassoon and orchestra and is here transcribed for clarinet. Debussy’s immortal piano piece Clair de Lune has also been presented in various arrangements through the years, and I have to say that Sam Boutris’ version for clarinet and piano is a gem; transparent, gossamer light and very sensitively played. 

This is without doubt the best known music on this disc. The remaining works are all originals for clarinet. Carl Nielsen’s little Fantasy Piece is a very early composition by a sixteen-year-old master-to-be. It is charming and a bit old-fashioned, worlds apart from Nielsen’s great masterpiece, the clarinet concerto written almost a half century later, in 1928, only a few years before his death. It has always been a challenge for every aspiring clarinettist, and had to wait close to twenty years before it got its first recording. The player then was Louis Cahuzac, the composer of the opening work on this recital. I once owned his pioneering recording on a cassette, which unfortunately was damaged and became ‘tape-salad’ as we used to say in those days. I later acquired Martin Fröst’s superb BIS recording and have been more than satisfied with it, but I still regret the loss of Cahuzac’s classic. His Cantilène is a lovely piece, inspired by the folk music of the Languedoc region in the south of France, where he grew up. Cahuzac was an avid champion of colleague composers’ works. For instance, he also recorded Luigi Bassi’s Fantasy on Themes from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, here performed with élan by Sam Boutris and Sophiko Simsive. It is a real tour de force, a string of pearls of well-known melodies from Verdi’s popular opera, played with virtuoso technical wizardry. All the famous numbers are there – except one. Verdi didn’t allow Bassi to include La donna e mobile. It had to be reserved for stage performances of the opera. Never mind; the fantasy is great entertainment, as is the whole programme. I won’t pretend that any of the works here are immortal masterworks, but those who acquire this disc are in for 47 minutes of deeply satisfying easy listening entertainment in the best sense of the word – the playing time could have been a bit more generous – impeccably performed. I eagerly look forward to future recordings from this duo.

Göran Forsling

Availability: Bandcamp

Louis Cahuzac (1880-1960)
1 Cantilène
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Three Romances, Op. 94
Luigi Bassi (1833-1871)
5 Fantasy on Themes from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
6 Suite Bergamasque, L. 75: III. Clair de Lune (arr. Sam Boutris)
Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)
7 Fantasy Piece for Clarinet and Piano in G minor
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
8 Andante e Rondo Ungarese, Op. 35