Sequenza 21

by Steve Hicken

Gerald Cohen Writes pleasantly engaging music for clarinets, either in featured roles or as equal partners in chamber settings. Sea of Reeds, a collection of chamber compositions for clarinet(s). piano, and (usually) a string instrument, shows the instruments and players off to good effect.

Cohen’s music is eclectic, but it wears that eclecticism lightly–his individual voice always comes through. The influences includes jazz, blues (of the twelve-bar variety), klezmer music, and mainstream American Modernism, with expanded tonal resources, open harmonies, and syncopated rhythms. The pieces are well-written and clearly constructed.

The playing, by the Grneta Ensemble (clarinetists Vasko Dukovski and Ismail Lumanovski and pianist Alexandra Joan) with violinist Jennifer Choi and violist Maria Lambros, is outstanding–one of the virtues of Cohen’s music is how well the instruments sound and how flattering it is to the players. Navona’s recorded sound is lucid and warm.

Most listeners will find something to like here, and more than a few clarinetists will find something they will want to play.