“Old New Borrowed Blue” – Duo Imaginaire – Chromart Classics

by | Jul 20, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

“Old New Borrowed Blue” [TrackList follows]– Duo Imaginaire (John Corbett, clarinet & bassethorn/Simone Seiler, harp) – Chromart Classics TXA 13022, 71:27, (6/25/13) ****:

Clarinet and harp is certainly a seldom heard combination but one that works generally very nicely. This tandem is not nearly as common as the numerous works that exist for flute and harp but there are enough pretty little parlor pieces and some interesting contemporary offerings to give a talented pair like John Corbett and Simone Seiler plenty to choose from.

“Duo Imaginaire” creates an engaging program here that includes some clarinet and harp originals as well as a couple of tasty arrangements. Of the arrangements, I thought the Granados Tonadillas worked the best. These well-known guitar works actually translate well for this combination, thanks in large part to the sultry melodies that Granados provides and that the clarinet gets to carry with panache. The Beethoven Adagio, from his Five Pieces for Flute, is also a pleasant offering. If I had a complaint in the transcriptions department, it is the Debussy Suite Bergamasque. Certainly this piano set is well known, especially, Clair de lune, and is a beautiful work. It is in this format too, but John Corbett gave himself a lot of altissimo passages, particularly in the Prelude and the Menuet. He hits all the upper register well and delicately but there is just a little too much, in my opinion, providing separation and a “sticks out” quality to the timbre; but this is a minor issue.

I actually found the Roccoco gem the Duo concertante by Johann Backofen my favorite work here. Corbett gets to show his Bassethorn skills (a fairly rare and special case instrument to be sure) in this charming two movement original, originally written as a court piece. The Rossini aria from The Barber of Seville is a kind of lightweight and charming addition as well.

There are certainly not too many original works written for this combination as of the past many years, but there are two good modern works present. Dutch composer Carlos Michans wrote his Music for Harp and Clarinet for a husband and wife team. This very interesting, somewhat somber work takes its inspiration from an incident where the composer was trying, and failed, to keep a rare butterfly alive. The Duo concertant by French composer Serge Lancen provides another interesting addition. This fairly brief but very pretty work owes a bit to Impressionism and also exists in versions for flute and harp and either wind plus strings.

“Duo Imaginaire” is a very interesting and talented pair. Both John Corbett and harpist Simone Seiler are excellent musicians and play with a suave symbiosis throughout. The key to finding works like this also hinges on finding an interested harpist of Seiler’s capabilities. I should think that any listener would enjoy most of this album and clarinetists now have another genre to explore!


Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
Suite bergamasque (Arr.: Duo Imaginaire)
Prélude, Menuet, Clair de lune, Passepied
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)
Adagio from: 5 Stücke für Flötenuhr WoO 33
(Arr.: Julius Baechi / Duo Imaginaire)
Carlos Micháns (*1950)
Music for Harp and Clarinet
Enrique Granados (1867–1916)
from: Tonadillas (Arr.: Duo Imaginaire)
La maja dolorosa III, El majo olvidado, El majo discreto
Johann G. H. Backofen (1768–1839)
Duo concertante F-Dur op. 7 für Bassetthorn und Harfe
Allegro, Allegretto: Thema mit Variationen
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868)
Cavatina „Una voce poco fa” from: Der Barbier von Sevilla
(Arr.: Ivan Müller)
Serge Lancen (1922–2005)
Duo concertant

—Daniel Coombs