Golden Age of the Clarinet
With the aid of a magnifying-glass to enlarge the most microscopic print I have ever seen, it is possible to learn from the cover-note that this cassette is an outcome of Keith Puddy's researches, while holding a Leverhulme Fellowship, into early instruments of the clarinet family. Except for the Mozart fragment (a mere sketch without accompaniment), each of the six works is played on an instrument whose date matches that of the composition; and their great diversity of sound (well caught by the recording) is fascinating—quite apart from the considerable historical interest of this survey of the treatment of the clarinet in the 60 years or so up to the first decade of the nineteenth century.
Only one item (the Vanhal) is duplicated in the similar conspectus by Alan Hacker and Richard Burnett (Amon Ra SAR10, 8/83)—though here we have the complete work, and most engaging it proves to be, especially with the ringing bright timbre on high notes produced by the instrument employed. A C clarinet sounds shriller in the Lefevre sonata, less so in the Devienne, which favours the middle register to a greater extent; this latter work calls for a change to a B flat instrument (mellower in sound) for its slow movement. Most striking of all is the little D clarinet which shoots up to dizzying heights (clear up to g'''), emulating the trumpet's sky-most clarino register, in the Molter concerto, one of the earliest written for the instrument. It is brilliantly played by Keith Puddy, who also demonstrates some skilful athleticism in the Devienne.
He is admirably partnered on various keyboard instruments by Kenneth Mobbs (sometimes providing his own realizations), who in the Danzi makes the most of its opportunities for dramatic solo piano episodes. Available only on cassette.'