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Music for flute, clarinet
and piano -
reviewed by

'... unusual, enjoyable ...'

World Wide Webster - The Webster Trio plays Dvorák, Debussy, Brahms and Louis Moreau Gottschalk. © 2004 Crystal Records Inc

The combination of flute, clarinet and piano is rare but not strange, if I can put it that way. Composers from 1650 to 1750 happily employed any two melody instruments above a foundation of keyboard and cello. Composers since then have adopted any single melody instrument with piano, or violin and cello with piano, as standard combinations. Just why flute and clarinet (indeed, any two upper woodwinds) and piano should have been so neglected after 1750 is therefore a little hard to fathom, especially after hearing on World Wide Webster what the combination can achieve [listen -- track 17, 0:00-1:19].

The neglect, however, forces the Webster Trio to rely on transcriptions. In fact, all the music on this CD has been arranged by the trio's leader, Michael Webster. Most of it has been arranged countless times for other instrumental combinations and some of the transcriptions are better known than the originals; one suspects that even the composers did not necessarily regard their 'original' piano four hands setting as the real thing but used it as a shorthand, a trial version.

One test of a transcription is whether a listener unfamiliar with any other version could accept it as an original work, and more than half this disc would pass that test. Items that fail it do so most often where the wind instruments can't match the percussive power and dynamic range of the piano but sound as though they need to. In compensation, there are moments where Webster has achieved textures which suit the musical ideas far better than the original setting [listen -- track 11, 0:00-1:15].

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Copyright © 21 June 2006 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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