Base2 Music specializes in organ music recorded in the highest resolution and this album is no exception. Organ and Clarinet is a Stereo DSD 128 recording that features a brilliant young Russian duo – Clarinetist Ruslan Schmelkov and Organist Egor Kolesov plus a guest appearance from Organist Jean-Paul Imbert.
The main theme of the album is two major works by Danish legend Carl Nielsen, his Clarinet concerto, op.57 and ‘Commotio’, op. 58 for organ. The recording also has classics from Shostakovich, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Arvo Part, and others. It is a feast of delights from the Kleuker ‘Hand of God’ organ in the church of Notre-Dame des Neiges, in the French Alps.
Egor Kolesov – Organ (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11)
Ruslan Schmelkov – Clarinet (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 11)
Jean-Paul Imbert – Organ (Tracks 4, 5, 8)
Total time: 01:33:48
|Original Recording Format|
|Release Date||February 19, 2021|
Jake Purches with Base2 Music knows how to engineer and record a church pipe organ, no matter what type, no matter what size. This time, he goes one step further by pairing the organ with a clarinet. Organ and trumpet are a common combination, but with a clarinet a lot less so. As far as I know, only a few CD recordings exist, and none in DSD. Difficult to pair? Not if you listen to this album.
For this recording, two outstanding Russian musicians, Ruslan Schmelkov, a clarinettist from Moscow and Egor Kolesov, an organist from Saint Petersburg, since 2016 performing together under the name of “Clarinet & Organ”, were invited to come to France, and more in particular to the musical home of Jean-Paul Imbert (the soloist in two previous releases), titular organist of the unique Detlef Kleuker church pipe organ of Notre Dame des Neiges in l’Alpe d’Huez.
The varied program is built around two major works of the Danish composer, Carl Nielsen: the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, in a transcription for Clarinet and Organ, and the Commotio for Organ Op. 58 for Organ Solo. The rest is made up of known and mostly unknown works of 20th Century composers, beginning with one of the most uplifting pieces ever been written by Dmitri Shostakovich, the second waltz of his Jazz suite, (maybe not planned, but setting a more than welcome tone in the ‘bluest’ month of the year during a pandemic of exceptional global impact!), played with soft hues, and stimulating sonorities of both organ and clarinet. By the sound and the mastery of it, possibly one of the ensemble’s top favourites. This is followed by a similarly played, divine Vocalise.
One of the advantages of a varied program is that it offers something for different tastes. By the same token, it may not offer everything for all tastes. I would urge everyone to listen at least once to the whole of the concert, as it features some amazing and, as the liner notes say “The light atmosphere of Parisian life”, modern French compositions: The Jazzy ‘Bach Chat’ of Charles Belayar, and ‘Sonata Parisienne’, by Julien Bret, where Imbert joins Egor Kolosov, thus adding a French touch to the program. Apart from barely noticeable untidiness is the faster passages, the four hands selections deliver some charming moments.
There is no doubt in my mind that we have here two major Russian talents at work, with Schmelkov showing his true colors in Nielsen’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. His musical competence finds expression in navigating with impressive virtuosity and tonal control through the complexities of the demanding score. The orchestral parts having been transcribed for organ by Kolesov, allows the organist to cleverly manage from the console, like a conductor would, the invigorating impetus for maintaining a perfect balance between ‘orchestra’ and soloist.
Also included are the works of a contemporary Danish composer, Kjell Mørk Karlsen, ‘Partita Brevis’, written for Organ and Clarinet, as well as Flor Peeters’ ’Toccata in D major’, for the performance of which ‘host’ Jean-Paul Imbert takes care. And then there is the always popular ‘Valse Triste’ by Sibelius, transcribed for clarinet and organ. The quality of the recording is such that a pseudo surround can be imagined. Arvo Pärt’s ‘Pari Intervallo’ for solo organ brings everything to a satisfactory close.
In conclusion: A brilliant selection, brilliantly played and … brilliantly recorded. Thanks, Egor, Ruslan, Jean-Paul, and Jake.
Do read the booklet!
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