IMPRESSIONS DE FRANCE
André Moisan (cl); Louise-Andrée Baril (pn)
ATMA 22680 (65:24)
Solo de concours.
Première Rhapsodie. Petite pièce.
Introduction et rondo.
Tema con variazioni
Since 1999, André Moisan has held the position of principal saxophone and bass clarinet with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and he is on the faculty at the Université de Montréal. The biographical note in Atma Classique’s booklet indicates that he has recorded more than 50 albums; several of them have been for this label. Curiously, this program was recorded in 1996. I don’t know if this is its first release, or if it previously appeared on another label. In any case, better late than never, because
Impressions de France
is a fine example of what can be done with this repertoire.
Moisan has a clear, penetrating tone which nevertheless never becomes shrill—his sound is lean, light, and clean. There is wit, where needed (the outer movements of the Poulenc Sonata, for example), but not buffoonery. He finds the gravity needed for the
movement of Saint-Saëns Sonata without allowing the music to turn leaden. He plays soulfully, but avoids bringing too much sweetness to the middle movement of the Poulenc, or to Debussy’s
Any young clarinetist who played Henri Rabaud’s
Solo de concours
with Moisan’s facility and understanding surely would win a top prize. His phrasing is fluid and imaginative, and he is attentive to the music’s shifting colors and textures. He doesn’t convince me that the less-familiar work by Widor is unjustly neglected, but he does bring plenty of well-behaved charm to Pierné’s bouncy
. Jean Françaix’s Tema con variazioni is efficiency made incarnate: a sequence of aphorisms and one-liners, told by the composer (and the performer) like an experienced raconteur. Baril’s partnership with Moisan is supportive and like-minded. Poulenc’s sonata is played in the “original version.” Apparently, a few errors (three in the first movement, one in the third) crept into the published edition, and these have been corrected here. I doubt that this will be noticed by anyone save other clarinetists and Poulenc scholars, but it is good that Moisan made the effort. Similarly, Moisan’s performance of Debussy’s
, from the composer’s manuscript, differs in a few places from the published Durand edition, but not strikingly.
The microphones pick up more key noise than one usually hears in a clarinet recital. If this bothers you, you have been warned, but I don’t think it should deter most listeners. The balance between the clarinet and the piano is ideal, and the booklet notes, apart from an occasional solecism (“Honneger,” for example), are nicely done.