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Frederick Thurston (1901-1953)
Zdeněk FIBICH (1850-1900)

Impression Op. 41 No. 17
Impression Op. 44 No. 3
Quintet for clarinet, horn, violin, cello and piano in D Op. 42 (1894)
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)

Concerto for Clarinet in A minor Op. 70 (1904)
John IRELAND (1879-1962)

Fantasy-Sonata (1943)
Frederick Thurston (clarinet) with
Lisa Fuchsova (piano) in the Fibich Impressions recorded February 1948
Dennis Brain (horn) Marie Wilson (violin) James Whitehead (cello) Lisa Fuchsova (piano) in the Fibich Quintet recorded (February 1948)
BBC Scottish Orchestra/Stanford Robinson in the Stanford Concerto recorded September 1952
John Ireland (piano) in the Ireland Fantasy-Sonata recorded probably in 1948
SYMPOSIUM 1259 [75.42]


After the primacy of Charles Draper the leading British clarinettists of their generation were Frederick Thurston and Reginald Kell, both known admiringly by the names Jack and Reg. Kell moved to America after the Second War where he became as influential a figure on his instrument as had cellist Felix Salmond before him. Thurston however died at fifty-two, a victim of lung cancer. His interest in recordings was minimal and unlike Kell he didnít make many solo discs, which makes this release from Symposium of outstanding interest.

A member of the BBC Symphony from its inception Thurstonís desire for a solo career was thwarted by the outbreak of War, though he still managed to commission new works from composers he admired. He succeeded Kell as principal clarinet of the Philharmonia and but maintained his position as the leading clarinettist in the country for only a short time; a lung was removed in 1952 and he died the following year. He had formed strong musical bonds with other elite players; Marie Wilson, one-time leader of the BBC Symphony under Boult, Dennis Brain, Sidney Sutcliffe, Gareth Morris, Cecil James and Harold Jackson amongst them.

Though Thurston is remembered today as an orchestral and chamber player Ė he won the Cobbett Gold Medal for his chamber music services Ė his elevated performances saw him appear as a prestigious soloist. We have examples here of Thurston the chamber, sonata and solo clarinettist and they give a rounded view of his interests and musical affiliations, as indeed they do of his superb musicianship. He, Brain, Wilson, Whitehead and Czech pianist Lisa Fuchsova join in a performance of one of Fibichís best known and most imaginative chamber works, the Quintet for clarinet, horn, violin, cello and piano in D. This was recorded on acetates and has a constant skein of scuffing throughout its length. Apart from this damage the sound is formidably forward and ears attuned to the problems inherent in this type of recording will adjust fairly soon, though not always comfortably. The mini cadential passages in the Largo are particularly characterful, the Scherzo is bold and the two trio sections full of dancing verve, Fuchsova proving particularly adept. The Stanford Concerto with the appropriately named Stanford Robinson conducting is the most recent of these survivors, dating from the year before Thurstonís early death. His Royal College of Music teacher, Charles Draper, had premiered the work and it was the piece with which Thurston first came to prominence at the college with a performance that inspired a letter of gratitude from the composer (from whom Thea King suggests in her notes he may have had some coaching). Thurston played the Concerto frequently during his career and his idiomatic understanding and liquid tone are revelatory, no less than the beautiful cantilena of the andante con moto section. Iíd never really noticed before the rather Elgarian string figuration of the final allegro moderato, a section that finds the soloist sweepingly elegant and alive. Thereís some overloading at points but the sound here is quite good.

The Ireland Fantasy-Sonata was dedicated to Thurston and this broadcast probably dates from 1948, the second occasion on which Thurston and Ireland broadcast it. There are two gaps in the performance, small ones presumably for a change of acetates, and Symposium has not patched, preferring to leave silence, and since Thurston made no commercial recording of the work thereís nothing to patch from. There is again some real scuffing but one can admire another welcome opportunity to listen to Irelandís measured but volatile pianism (apart from the solo works we have the First Violin Sonata with Grinke, the Second with Sammons and the Cello Sonata with Sala). The balance is reasonably good for a broadcast performance and Thurston is charismatic and full of timbral variety and rhythmic wit

Thea King, Thurstonís widow, writes the acute and perceptive notes. As I said Thurston made relatively few recordings; the Bliss Clarinet Quintet with the Grillers, Mozartís Trio K498 with Rebecca Clarke and Kathleen Long, Stanfordís Caoine and Alan Frankís Suite for two clarinets (with Ralph Clarke) are amongst them. But so far as I know no Finzi, Rawsthorne or Arnold [No 1] Concertos, Howells Sonata or Rawsthorne Quartet Ė he was the dedicatee of all of them. So all thanks to Symposium for this timely release; gone these fifty years but impossible to forget.

Jonathan Woolf



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