Perpetual Motion: Works by Francis Poulenc: CD

This review was published on: December 11th 2021

The following review is taken from the Winter 2021 issue of Clarinet & Saxophone magazine. For more reviews, news, and features from the single-reed world, join to receive our quarterly magazine and other membership benefits.


David Shifrin(clarinet) and friends
Musica Solis

Poulenc’s works for clarinet are firmly established in the clarinet repertoire. His Sonata for clarinet and piano (1962) is a late work, written just months before his death. Regarded as a cornerstone of 20th-century French repertoire for clarinet and piano, it has been widely recorded on CD, appearing on many recital collections. The Sonata for two clarinets, which was in fact his first chamber work, was composed in 1918. It is particularly notable because one part is written for B flat clarinet and the other for A clarinet. The Sonata for clarinet and bassoon, written in 1922, is an equally idiosyncratic piece. Both of these instrumental duets will be familiar to clarinet players, but they have not been recorded as frequently as the Sonata for clarinet and piano. Poulenc’s only other significant work for clarinet is the Sextour for piano and wind quintet, written in 1932.

One would expect a recording of Poulenc’s works for clarinet to include all three sonatas and the Sextuor. However, instead of the Sextuor, this new disc from clarinettist David Shifrin includes three arrangements of other Poulenc works not originally written for

The Sonata for horn, trumpet and trombone is a very well-known work. In this transcription, it is arranged for clarinet, basset horn and bass clarinet. This combination works exceptionally well, with the distinctive timbres of the different clarinets being almost a perfect match for the instruments for which the work was originally composed. On this recording, the Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano becomes a trio for clarinet, cello and piano. The final work, from which the title of the CD derives, is the Mouvements Perpétuels for solo piano, arranged here for clarinet and piano by Shifrin and pianist Robert Blocker. Much of the piano accompaniment is the original by Poulenc, with the clarinet taking a lot of melodic material.

Andrew Smith

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