One of the most renowned clarinetists on the new music scene, Carl Rosman has worked closely with each of the composers represented here, in some cases over multiple projects. The extent of the collaboration varies from work to work, as he explains in an illuminating booklet-note, but the sense of pieces written to fit him like a glove pervades the whole. One is particularly struck by his command of breath, whether taken in audible gulps and gasps or inaudibly through circular breathing. It gives these performances a raw edge, even when the music hovers at the boundary of immobility. Another intriguing feature of this recital is the absence of 10-minute works, which are quite common in solo programmes of this sort: the pieces by Aaron Cassidy and Georges Aperghis are rather shorter, those by Richard Barrett, Rebecca Saunders and Chikako Morishita about twice that length, and the two by Kagel are miniatures.
It is particularly intriguing to compare Morishita’s five-movement Skin, Gelatine, Soot with Saunders’s and Barrett’s single-movement forms. The recurrence of repeated patterns, the revisiting of gestural materials across changing time-frames, leads to a very different sense of time passing from Saunders’s Caerulean, an extended exploration into trilled multiphonics, in which the tension between stasis and detail is (purposely) never fully resolved. The haunting two-note multiphonics that end the piece (evident favourites of Rosman) do so again in Barrett’s Flechtwerk and Cassidy’s The wreck of former boundaries, although the wailing agitation that precedes them in the Cassidy entirely changes how they are heard, as Rosman himself remarks. Perhaps the most impressive performance on the disc is the duo with pianist Mark Knoop in Barrett’s Flecthtwerk – impressive because the episodes of rhythmic and timbral coincidence, and the deviations from them, are equally assured and motivated. The piece’s many playful passages had me smiling, but the clarinet cadenza near the end neatly sums up Rosman’s energy and sheer physicality. In this repertory, virtuosity can almost be taken for granted, but Rosman – and the composers too – gives us far more.