THE GREAT CLARINETTIST LOUIS CAHUZAC
Louis Cahuzac (cl); Folmer Jensen (pn); Koppel Qrt;
Mogens Wöldike, cond;
John Frandsen, cond;
Danish R C O;
Copenhagen Royal O
DANACORD DACOCD 722-723 (2 CDs: 131:00)
Clarinet Sonata No. 1.
Louis Cahuzac (1880–1960) was one of the most important clarinetists of the first half of the 20th Century. A renowned virtuoso-pedagogue like his teacher Cyrille Rose and his older contemporary Paul Jeanjean, he counted among his students Eduard Brunner, Hans Rudolf Stalder, and Gervase de Peyer. Cahuzac rubbed elbows with many of the major composers of his day; he toured with d’Indy and worked with both Debussy and Stravinsky on the interpretation of their clarinet compositions.
Late in his life Cahuzac made a series of trips to Denmark, and he made most of his recordings for Danish Columbia between 1947 and 1949. The present set comprises Cahuzac’s complete Danish studio recordings, adding to the Columbias the 1952 Mozart Concerto made for a Haydn Society LP. In addition, he made the first recording of Hindemith’s Clarinet Concerto under the composer in 1956. A 1929 version of the Mozart Concerto is mentioned in the notes to this set, but it is not listed in any of the standard references and I have never run across it.
Cahuzac was well along in years when these recordings were made; in them he plays with a bright, well-focused tone typical of the French school—occasionally sounding a bit pinched—and a fluid technique. It is a shame we don’t have recordings documenting his playing in the 1920s and ’30s, when he would have been in his prime. Still, these are valuable documents of his playing, none more so than the premiere recording of Carl Nielsen’s supremely difficult concerto, a reading that held sway for 20 years, setting a high bar that it would finally take the legendary Stanley Drucker to surmount. The Honegger Sonatine, of which Cahuzac gave the premiere performance, is also a first recording. The straightforward performance of the Mozart Concerto must have made a refreshing contrast with the more mannered readings by Reginald Kell then available; Cahuzac plays with a clean technique and makes no gratuitous gestures. One might only wish for greater subtlety or variety of tone color in the
, and the Rondo is unusually relaxed. The 60-year-old sound is startlingly immediate in Danacord’s transfer.
The Brahms and Schumann recordings were unissued at the time. This may have to do with technical imperfections: there’s a squeak in the first movement of the Brahms, and some fumbling by pianist Jensen in the finale; in the Schumann, Cahuzac plays slightly sharp throughout. Or, the notes by Robert Anthony Briggs may be correct in surmising that these 1949 78s were the victims of postwar material shortages and the changeover to LP. The three short French works, one by Cahuzac himself, are attractive fluff. The transfers, made from original metal parts, are vivid and mostly quiet, with one faulty side join in the Mozart Quintet. This set is self-recommending to serious students of the clarinet and clarinet playing.
Richard A. Kaplan