review

Alter ego: CD

This review was published on: September 11th 2022
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The following review is taken from the Autumn 2022 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.

 

ALTER EGO

David Orlowsky (clarinet)
David Bergmüller (lute)
Warner Classics

 

This freewheeling album makes for a most pleasurable listen. It is formed entirely of duo playing by the clarinettist David Orlowsky and lutenist David Bergmüller, who make an effective case for the uncommon partnership of these two instruments. The title, Alter Ego, refers to how the musicians regard each other.

Orlowsky is German clarinettist whose playing encompasses classical and klezmer styles. He leans heavily into klezmer flavours here while also summoning a Middle Eastern soundworld, enhanced by the lute accompaniment. Bergmüller’s playing comes over as sensitive and immaculate, and the combination of the two is crisp and perfectly balanced.

There is no repertoire for clarinet and lute – or there wasn’t before this duo formed – so the programme is a selection of original compositions by the performers, arrangements of well-known Purcell and Dowland lollipops, and a sprinkling of more up-to-date items. The approach across all tracks is thoroughly accessible – just watch out for ‘Zeitfaltung’, written by the duo, which features some of the most bloodthirsty flutter tonguing and growling I’ve ever heard on the clarinet! Irregular time signatures abound; even the foursquare Purcell numbers are played with folky panache and mixed in with sections of improvisation, suggesting they should have been in 5/8 all along.

The album is described in the liner notes as ‘a journey into unexplored soundworlds … the clarinet is the voice of bygone times and together with the lute creates polyrhythmic structures where new and old times flow together.’ In fact, the music is more down to earth than this implies. There is no questioning the level of performance, but it’s clear that a desire for broad appeal has governed some of the repertoire selections, reflected in a healthy number of listens on Spotify. This is no bad thing; I mention it only to clarify the album’s purpose for any world music connoisseurs.

For me, this album is all about two extraordinary musicians having great fun in studio, resulting in a rare blend of musical innovation and popular appeal. It is worthy of repeated listens, and I am delighted that for this review I was provided with a hard copy to add to my permanent collection.

Chris Walters

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) cassgb.org. Tel: 01642 769 558

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