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David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2015

Enjoying a career as a clarinetist and percussionist, Áskell Másson has become Iceland’s leading classical composer, though he has been very largely self-taught. Maybe that fact has created a personal musical voice, that, like so many of today’s composers, uses tonality and atonality as the mood takes him. Already with a large collection of works that includes three symphonies and sixteen concertos, all the pieces on the present disc include the clarinet. They have been composed over twelve years, starting in 1979, when he was twenty-six, with Bilk (Gleam) scored for solo clarinet. It is a short work packed with many modern clarinet ‘effects’ framed within a wide dynamic range. In chronological sequence, and six years later, the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano, is hugely satisfying and very wide ranging in its moods. I was then doubly impressed when I moved to works with multiple instruments, such as the Wind Quintet, where he obviously enjoys working within a wide range of sonorities. The pugnacious aspects add drama to the outer movements, with the chattering dialogues at the heart of the score hardly sounding friendly. From 1998, and his most recent work, the Sonata for clarinet and piano, composed for the soloist on the disc, Einer Jóhannesson, is often a potent score with big climatic moments instigated by the keyboard. In three linked movements—though my downloading inserted two disjointing gaps—the second serves as a brief scherzo, while the third includes a virtuoso cadenza to speed it to an end. I much enjoyed the pleasing sounds of the Fantasia for clarinet and harpsichord, the end stoking up some white heat. Jóhannesson, who we have greatly enjoyed for many years as the principal clarinet of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, plays throughout the disc and is a superb exponent and a dedicated champion of Másson. The harpsichord needed a little more piquancy from the engineers, but otherwise the sound is excellent. © 2015 David’s Review Corner

Ettore Garzia
Percorsi Musicali, August 2015

[This is] an exciting and almost complete volume of recordings in which the clarinet appears, and it satisfies the need to see brought together all the great work done by Icelandic composers for the instrument.

In it you will find magnificent contrasts between its harmonic range, which can be equated with its own “vocal style” and the system of impressionistic writing, with its decadent themes and its memory losses. Much of the success of the work must be attributed to Einar Jóhannesson, an essential and yet underrated clarinetist. © 2015 Percorsi Musicali Read complete review

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