An ambitious project launched by clarinetist Guy Yehuda resulted in six new works for clarinet and piano, all somehow influenced by Claude Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie. Rhapsodies Around the World is a fair description of the contents, as all the continents are represented by the diverse set of composers Yehuda chose to commission.
The disc opens with his performance of the model work, and Yehuda demonstrates a decent finesse with this always-difficult piece. His reading is marked by certain injections of personality, if that’s the right word. Over time a well-worn piece might seem to beg for reinterpretation, and one is always free to provide one, just as a listener is free to like or dislike the layering of liberties pasted on the original.
I’m grateful nonetheless to the performer for this collection. The various spinoffs most resemble the original only in duration, each between eight and ten minutes in length. The composers provide an accounting of their approach to the project’s requirements, some more prolix than others. The essay by Michel Petrossian describing his Timkat Song bears so much analysis on its own that one might forget the fine piece of music it describes. American violinist/composer Piotr Szewczyk’s Luminous Rhapsody reminds me of the music of Joan Tower. Yao Chen almost literally recalls the original Rhapsodie at the outset of Through Waters, By Mountains. Clare Loveday of South Africa wrote Heatwave during a real heat wave, gave up on trying to find a connection to the model work, and came up with a brilliant, jazzy number. It, Parish Ode (attention anagram lovers), by Liduino Pitombeira of Brazil, and The Three Alcids by Melody Eötvös are my favourites.