Music by Daniel Dorff

 
Review of Perennials CD
in Summer 2014 Flutist Quarterly

reviewed by Francesca Arnone
 

This solid collection of Daniel Dorff’s works featuring the flute and clarinet (the composer’s primary instrument) is a welcome addition to our library. The accomplished Idaho-based duo of flutist Leonard Garrison and clarinetist Shannon Scott, with pianist Rajung Yang, present an expert recording of Dorff’s music that captures the lyricism and enthusiasm present in his works.

Appropriately sharing the cover of the CD’s first selection, Perennials (2011), this wide-ranging work portrays the enduring yet ever-changing qualities of a life in music, while commissioned by Sherry and Wally Kujala to pay homage to flutist Helen Ann Shanley and clarinetist Richard Shanley, both former professors at Baylor University with a distinguished tenure. Dorff writes that what began as a seven-minute work blossomed into a five-movement mature “perennial” composition—one to last the ages, as compared to an annual plant or flower which must be replanted annually—that will offer a variety of exciting programming opportunities.

Although not particularly partial to playing individual movements on formal recitals, I believe this work offers interesting varieties of tempos, styles, colors, and energy levels guaranteed to form interesting combinations of movements that will enhance many solo and chamber programs. I have listened to this piece performed by the Scott/Garrison Duo both live and on the CD. It was very well received in performance and keeps the listener very engaged in a recorded setting.

In the Three Romances for Flute and Clarinet (2007), Dorff writes a breezy, sultry, singing duo for flute and clarinet that sounds just plain fun to play. The performers execute the tone color and mood changes wonderfully and again present a great repertoire option for a shared recital or a fun closer.

Although not presented in this order on the CD, the next four Bach selections are transcriptions of four inventions by J.S. Bach that work surprisingly well for both flute and clarinet, likely due to Dorff’s choices of more idiomatic keys. Their sequential appearance on the CD is gently peppered by their alternation with other works for flute and clarinet, perhaps to offer greater variety in listening from one track to the next.

The Andante con Variazione (1975) is sandwiched between the first two inventions (here, in G major and G minor, respectively), as its final cadence appears to be in a solid D major! Its placement offers an interesting change of pace; after the next Bach invention arrangement, we hear the Three Little Waltzes (2010) once again feature just flute and clarinet with unexpected harmonic changes (particularly in the “Third Little Waltz”) that also make it a great closer.

This cycle continues, presenting the Two Cats for flute and clarinet (2007) and concluding with the final invention (BWV 779), guaranteed to perk up the ears of an audience while offering another era for an interesting performance presentation.

The final large-scale work is Dances and Canons (1976), again for flute and clarinet, consisting of nine very short movements with great variety. Originally composed for piano and other chamber combinations, it offers wonderfully seamlessly-played short movements. For flutists who are fortunate to collaborate with a clarinetist, they may enjoy playing this work as a contrast to the Muczynski duos, which offer six slightly longer movements.

The CD concludes with the expressive and color-rich Pastorale (1994) for clarinet and piano, again beautifully played. It’s tempting to borrow this for flute!

It’s an appropriate conclusion to an excellent CD of interesting yet accessible repertoire, performed by high-caliber and sensitive musicians. Although it is evident through the quality of this performance that Garrison and Scott have enjoyed a long-term collaboration, Yang also contributes sensitively.

Highly recommended CD and repertoire.

—Francesca Arnone