Michael and Kimberly Davenport have released an outstanding selection of serious bass clarinet repertoire. Duo Recital covers a broad span of music from late nineteenth century Dvorak, transcribed from cello, to the present, dedicated especially to Davenport and his beloved instrument (check out www. bassclarinet.org). What brings this album together is not the sound of the bass clarinet but the lyricism that Davenport displays throughout.
Schoeck’s Sonata für Bassklarinette und Klavier Op.41 is a standard work for bass clarinet. Davenport gives each small Reger-esque phrase meaning – not an easy feat – and the piano only works with the bass clarinet. Dynamics between the duo are well-balanced and nicely anticipated throughout the work.
Erbse’s Lyrische Stucke, are played with as much dedication and animation as the Schoeck, yet I find this a little too intense in concentration having these two pieces one after the other on the CD.
It is Wolfgang Gabriel’s Sonatina for Clarinet and Bass Clarinet Op.79 that breaks away. Especially written for Davenport, this piece shows off both clarinetist (Virgil Kocher) and ‘bassist’ alike. With their crisp technique and blending of phrases, it is often difficult to distinguish instruments in the upper register. Exciting and challenging, I feel this piece is a significant work for the bass clarinet and clarinet duo. And, I believe one of the best reasons to listen to the album.
Davenport has the gift of making his bass clarinet sing. Gabriel’s second piece was originally intended for voice and piano. At once this is recognized but only because the instrument sings it. It is the same for the final two works. Downstream has such a simple melody of long notes yet Davenport’s musical abilities produce a lyrical, well-controlled and clear tone (almost unrecognizably clear). Every bass clarinetist will be impressed by his final note.
What I like about Davenport’s playing is the musicality and lyricism he possesses. So often we look for dexterous technique and lots of notes to impress. And Michael could do that if he wanted to. But instead he takes the notes on the page from all of these pieces, no matter how difficult or easy they are technically, and makes sense of them in phrasing and direction. He just sings through his bass clarinet. This recording is highly recommended.
– Miranda Sue-Yek, Australian Clarinet and Saxophone, Volume 9, Number 3 (September 2006)