JAMES M. STEPHENSON (b.1969): Liquid Melancholy for Clarinet and Orchestra (Lake Forest Symphony; Vladimir Kulenovic), Colors for Clarinet, Oboe and Ensemble, Last Chants for Ensemble (Alex Klein [oboe], Chicago Pro Musica), Clarinet and Piano: Fantasie, Étude Caprice, Sonata (Patrick Godon [piano]).
Catalogue Number: 05T082
Reference: CDR 90000 176
Description: Appealing and accessible, tonal works of great character and vitality. The concerto is by no means as gloomy as its title (borrowed out of context from Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451') might seem to imply. The work is in three movements with an accompanied cadenza introducing the finale. The first movement is a scampering chase, with the clarinet burbling vociferously against angular, propulsive lines from the orchestra. The slow movement, lamentoso, is elegiac, the solo part sobbing and keening over a hushed accompaniment. The finale drives energetically toward an emphatic conclusion. Colors, for ensemble, emulates a kind of sonata structure, with a choleric, argumentative first movement ('Red'), a blues ('Blue') for a slow movement, pastoral 'Green' and fast rustic dancing in the 'White' light of morning. Last Chants introduces various chant-like motifs, with the inflections and pitch-bending of the middle East, and then sends them off on av variety of lively dance episodes, with the clarinet exercising its Klezmer chops but also suggesting celebrations throughout the region. The Sonata is a traditional specimen of the genre - fast-slow-fast with an optional scherzo-interlude (played here), with some jazz inflections and motifs, a lovely, lyrical slow movement and a finale with a slapstick bitonal introduction to a good-humored, ostinato-propelled allegro which develops a jazzy groove as it goes along. John Bruce Yeh (clarinet).