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Tema con variazioni


Sixty-five years after Debussy composed his Première Rhapsodie, Jean Françaix was approached with a similar commission from the Paris Conservatoire—to compose a work as a test piece for the clarinet department’s Pièce de Concours. Composed in 1974 for that year’s trials, Francaix dedicated Tema con variazioni to his grandson Olivier. In all his music, Françaix was unashamedly in the business of charming his listeners, though, unlike his friend Poulenc—with whom he is sometimes compared for the cheeky insouciance of much of his music—Françaix rarely expressed any deep emotion or sensibility. Tema con variazioni is no exception, presenting a perky theme followed by six variations which in their various ways recall the studiedly carefree and irreverent spirit of the 1920s, yet fulfil the requirement—in the composer’s own words—of being “perilous to perform”. “Fortunately,” he added, “clarinet players have masochistic tendencies…We are far from the time when Jerome K. Jerome, listening to a clarinet, wrote that it reminded him of this mother-in-law swallowed by a shark. Nowadays clarinet players have turned into mermaids; and Odysseus’s bonds should be of steel.”

from notes by Daniel JaffĂ© © 2014


Glinka, Milhaud & Prokofiev: Clarinet Sonatas
Studio Master: SIGCD384Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD384 track 2

Recording date
24 May 2013
Recording venue
Wyastone Leys Concert Hall, Monmouthshire, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Nicholas Parker
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch & Andrew Mellor
Hyperion usage
  1. Glinka, Milhaud & Prokofiev: Clarinet Sonatas (SIGCD384)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: June 2014
    Download only
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