KEITH MERRILL BRADSHAW: Desertscape; JEFFREY HOOVER: September; Dreaming; ROBERT FRUEHWALD: Terpsichore; Andy and Me – Michael Dean, clarinet/ Tyson Wunderlich, piano – [Available at clarinetmike.com] 42:29 **1/2:
I am a big fan of vanity productions of which this is one. (A vanity production is where the artist himself funds and produces outside of the standard existing labels.) But in this case, Michael Dean’s commissions on this disc don’t resonate with me at all, despite their inherent accessibility and easy-listening qualities. Mr. Dean, President of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors, is I fear not caught at his best on this recording either, as there are some pinched notes and not always flowing tonal characteristics, which might be, I confess, coming from the recording itself—always a danger in these kinds of productions. Technically the program doesn’t seem too much of a challenge for him. The sound in general is a little bright, but not overly so.
But the music itself is the prime criteria by which any assessment must be made, and by and large it does not stand up to repeated hearings. The namesake piece, Dreamscape, is very easy to listen to but doesn’t seem to possess much depth beyond the surface level. Andy and Me (Andy being a dog, we are to find out) is the type of work that seems cutesy on a recital but irritating on a recording—do we really want to listen to a dog barking as part of a work, even if it is a tongue-in-cheek-work? On a CD forever? The two Hoover pieces are fine in as far as they go, appropriate filler material for a concert or a disc like this, but not substantial enough to have you coming back, though they do make you wonder what Mr. Hoover could do with a larger canvas. Terpsichore is modeled on Praetorius’s large collection of the same name, and again, these are not offensive but neither do they inspire one to want to come back. Sprinkled among other more substantial fare, these pieces might have made a difference in their perception. As is they are finely made and even interesting on a certain level, but lack the beef to fill out the sandwich.
When you add into this mix the fact that there are only 42 minutes on this disc—despite the $15 price tag, it may not be worth it, as there are so many competing clarinet CDs out there of substantial quality and more deserving of your precious listening time. But clarinetists may want this, especially fans of the artist or composers.
— Steven Ritter