13 Ebony ChantsEbony Chants
Paolo Marchettini
New Focus Recordings FCR402 (newfocusrecordings.com)

Ebony Chants, featuring the music of clarinetist Paolo Marchettini, is a day in the life of the second-most listenable woodwind (after bassoon). It opens with the first of Due Canti: Il canto del giorno, and closes, after much business and play, with the suitably named counterpart, Il canto della notte.

  For several works Marchettini is joined by  Meng Zhang and Ka Hei Chan on clarinet and Tommy Shermulis on bass clarinet. The parts are rotated democratically (if the listing order on the jacket indicates what it seems to). They are all excellent, and the material is mostly in brief segments lasting in the range of one to three minutes. Most delightful are his Cinque Fanfare Napoletane, which reference popular traditional melodies with affection and humour. Nothing is ever trite, although on the overly-serious side I am less of a fan of Nec Clari, a somewhat foggy multi-track overdubbing of the composer’s own playing. At over six minutes I lose attention (a product of my times, I admit), and I find his tone on bass clarinet to be less than compelling. Shermulis, by contrast, sounds terrific both as ensemble member and soloist for Entrée, a tough-sounding solo work. I’d love to hear him take a swing at Soft, Franco Donatoni’s work for the same instrument. 

Sad to say, the online jacket material includes only Marchettini’s bio details, not those of his collaborators, a detail I mentally file alongside other examples of sub-optimal digital publishing.

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Author: Max Christie
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