Classical Reissue Reviews

Louis Cahuzac (clarinet): The Complete Danish Studio Recordings = Danacord (2 CDs)

The Danish inscriptions by French clarinet virtuoso include ravishing performances of the concertos by Mozart and Nielsen, as well as rare chamber music pieces.

Published on September 4, 2012

Louis Cahuzac (clarinet): The Complete Danish Studio Recordings =
Danacord (2 CDs)

Louis Cahuzac: The Complete Danish Studio Recordings = MOZART: Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622; Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581; NIELSEN: Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 57; SCHUMANN: Fantasiestuecke, Op. 73; BRAHMS: Sonata No. 1 in F Minor for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120, No. 1; CAHUZAC: Cantilene ; JEANJEAN: Arabesques; HONEGGER: Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano; PIERNE: Canzonetta – Louis Cahuzac, clarinet/ Folmer Jensen, piano/ The Koppel Quartet/ Danish Radio Ch. Orch./ Mogens Woeldike (Mozart Con.) Royal Orch./ John Frandsen (Nielsen Con.) – Danacord DACOCD722723, (2 CDs) 65:11; 65:39 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Louis Cahuzac (1880-1960) stands out as a French clarinet virtuoso who embarked on a solo career relatively early in the 20th Century, having been recognized by such composers as Debussy, Stravinsky, Honegger, and Milhaud for his outstanding consistency as a master colorist in his chosen instrument. From 1947-1952 Cahuzac made a series of inscriptions for the 78 rpm medium, which endured in Denmark until 1960! The most famous of these remains the Nielsen Concerto debut, the piece having been conceived for Danish clarinetist Aage Oxenvad. The Mozart Concerto came under the auspices of the Haydn Society, which issued the 1952 performance on an LP that included the Haydn Symphony No. 61. The Brahms and Schumann selections included in this edition make their first appearance on reissued discs since their initial recording in 1949.

From the first elegant notes of the Danish Radio Chamber Orchestra for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto under Woeldike (1897-1988), we know we traverse a rarified space, the galant security of the figures of this most valedictory of Mozart’s concerted works in the hands of able veterans. Despite the monaural sound, the Concerto and several of the transfers derive from nickel-plated copper matrices, infinitely quieter than grainy shellacs of the period. Cahuzac’s engaging tone, particularly in the clarinet’s low chalumeau register, projects a full-blooded clarity and suave colorful enunciation of the registration shifts. The centerpiece Adagio movement floats in the same refined atmosphere that conductor Vaclav Talich achieved in his esteemed recording with soloist Vladimir Riha. The smooth elegance of Cahuzac’s scales and trills should ingratiate him to a new generation of connoisseurs. The luxuriously bubbly Rondo: Allegro dances with robust certitude, but the spirit remains essentially aristocratic in nature, the figures warm in the way the archangels behold earth when man has not besotted it.

For the 1948 inscription of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, Cahuzac has the support of the Koppel String Quartet (est. 1945), a group who prided themselves in the music of Nielsen. Seamless lines grace the opening Allegro, with its bucolic intimation of “East Side, West Side.” Julius Koppel’s throaty contribution in the viola clearly stands out. Another of Mozart’s miracle movement, the Larghetto basks in tonal and digital security, an unbroken song in every part, good enough for Mendelssohn to lift for his D Minor Piano Concerto. A more fiery sensibility permeates the Menuetto, especially in the dialogues between first violin Elsemarie Bruun and Cahuzac, with strong bass lies from cellist Anton Svendsen. The buoyant Allegretto con variazioni concludes in the manner of a musical feast of colors, the sixty-eight-year-old Cahuzac resplendent in Mozart’s lyrical tour-de-force.

Nielsen’s 1928 Clarinet Concerto in one movement had mixed reviews at its premier, though the positive response claimed that Nielsen had “liberated the soul of the clarinet, not only the wild animal aspect but also its special brand of ruthless poetry.” A tug of war between E Major and F Major, the music might represent the bi-polar character of the Concerto’s dedicatee, Oxenvad. Each time the music achieves some sense of repose, the snare drum re-instigates the struggle, all within chamber music proportions. Cahuzac realizes an eminently fluid reading, moving through the soli and metric turbulence that will eventually crown F Major the victor. Conductor John Frandsen (1918-1996) made a limited number of recordings, but this inscription may well constitute his major opus. After a disarmingly serene Adagio, only interrupted by a mordant middle section with snare accompaniment, the last movement following a cadenza, Allegro vivace, gains textural complexity in the midst of some freewheeling acrobatics on the part of all principals. The eerily modal coda proves quite effective.

The Schumann three Fantasiestuecke (31 October 1949) and the Brahms F Minor Sonata  represent Cahuzac’s attempt to introduce more of the German-based repertoire to French audiences. Cahuzac collaborates with the artful Folmer Jensen (1902-1966), and their Schumann vibrates with nervous intensity in the composer’s Eusebius persona. The last of the Schumann triptych, marked “Fast and With Fire,” unleashes a moment from Florestan, ardent and passionate in a seamless array of colors.  The stark octaves in the piano that introduce the Brahms 1894 F Minor Clarinet Sonata (29 October 1949) he composed for Richard Muehlfeld soften to a lyrical melancholy almost immediately, despite the indication Allegro appassionato. Despite some fuzz in the sound document, Cahuzac’s mellow repose in the piece captures its restrained internalized passions. The Andante un poco adagio, an homage to Schumann, exploits the subtle intimate timbres of which Cahuzac remained a past master. A laendler sensibility permeates the third movement, although the middle section proves stormy in its introspective way. A burst of youthful enthusiasm marks the Vivace, in which Cahuzac and Jensen frolic with verve and occasional wistfulness, as required.

The remainder of Disc 2 devotes itself to Gallic repertory, beginning with Cahuzac’s own recording (14 November 1948) of his flighty Cantilene, a liquid piece of French paysage that has the composer-performer singing as though he played the flute. Arabesques by Paul Jeanjean (1874-1928) disclose a lyric talent to us whose moody lyricism might nod to Faure or to Delibes’ operatic side. Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) dedicated his three-movement Sonatine to Cahuzac. The opening Modere casts an uneasy light in angular scale patterns. Marked Lent et soutenu, the second movement plays like a Kurt Weill “September Song,” moody and wincing with subdued regret. Vif et rhythmique, the last movement, projects a jazzy bluesy series of riffs, a few hot licks before the brief movement stops on a dime. Recorded at the same session (7 November 1947), the sweet Canzonetta of Gabriel Perne (1863-1937) proceeds in rocking and sporadic scale figures, a lightweight canter down a romantic lane likely filled with tender memories.  Kudos to restoration engineer Claus Byrith for his efforts in resuscitating long hidden treasures.

—Gary Lemco




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