A Brahms-clarinet bridge connects to another new chamber music recording, featuring Julian Bliss, still only 26 yet already more than ten years into his career. The clarinettist is the instigator of a poised if unspectacular reading with the Carducci Quartet of Brahms’s great, late Clarinet Quintet, less autumnal than usual in the tensile first movement, but lacking in wistful glow later on. The other item on the album is much more exciting. David Bruce’s Gumboots, for bass clarinet (new territory for Bliss) and string quartet, was written in 2008 and is inspired by 'gumboot dancing'—the secret communication between black miners chained together in the flooded gold mines of South Africa.
It seems like odd scoring, but Bruce’s piece pivots on the contrast between its elegiac first movement and the five dances that follow it, and Bliss and the Carduccis relish the expressive variety. The piece is not preachy and nor is it particularly “African” in feel (some of the riotousness sounds more klezmer than KwaZulu-Natal), but what it does eloquently transmit in its 20-odd minutes is a vital journey towards exhilarating physical release.