This album had more of an impact than I expected. Richard Nunemaker is long-time clarinetist of the Houston Symphony, and here he calls on his clarinet and string friends of the Louisville Orchestra to assist him with compositions by four different composers who all attended the premieres of these performances. Rothko Landscapes is a marvelously evocative piece for four clarinets that keeps you glued to the music with the variety of sounds that the clarinets produce, including a tasteful demonstration of the often dreaded multiphonics, here used to terrific (and musical) effect instead of the usual cheap “something different” theatrics of lesser composers. Satterwhite’s Clarinet Quintet is a beautiful and pleasantly modern take on an old form that adds to the integrity of the repertory’s form.
The other pieces use mixed clarinets in small ensemble (two), including the last three pieces listed that make a wonderful showing for the bass clarinet, a Nunemaker specialty, here given in an excellent presentation that is far overdue for this much-maligned (and underused) instrument. Overall, a fine way to spend an hour and 15 minutes, and I can see the attraction of the production seeping into those segments of the classical music populace that would normally shun such a listing. Give it a try—you won’t be sorry!
— Steven Ritter