Here’s an attractive set. Ronald L Caravan is a writer, pedagogue and musician whose name is behind a popular line of mouthpieces for his instruments of choice: the clarinet and saxophone. Prosaically titled “Single Reed Expressions”, it
turns out to be a handy guide to chamber repertoire old and new for student or aficionado alike.
Spread across eight discs, the familiar includes usual clarinet suspects like Weber, Schumann, Brahms and Poulenc, but also much that’s attractive and rare: try Paul Creston’s jazzy Saxophone Sonata, Erwin Dressel’s mellow Partita for Alto Saxophone or Erland von Koch’s lively sonata for the same instrument. There are some fine virtuoso byways like Martinu’s florid Clarinet Sonatina and Richard Rodney Bennett’s Sonatina for Solo Clarinet. Masters of the European 20th century include pieces by Berg, Stravinsky, Penderecki and Krenek.
Caravan has an ideal manner with a burnished tone. Not one to force his personality into the spotlight, these are textbook readings, though never simply dry studies, perfectly complemented by Sar-Shalom Strong on piano. The bonuses for committed clarinettists and saxophonists are off-the-beaten-tracks rep by composers like Lawson Lunde (his Alpine Sonata for Soprano Saxophone is a peach), the engaging Walter Hartley and Caravan himself. With natural and well-balanced recording, fans of either instrument will find much to enjoy here.