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Joseph HOROVITZ (b. 1926)
Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra (1948, rev. 1956)†
Concerto for Euphonium and Chamber Orchestra (1972, rev. 1976)
Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra (1949-50)†
Jazz Concerto for Piano, Strings and Percussion (1965)
Jeremy Brown (bass); Matt Skelton (percussion); Fiona Cross (clarinet); Steven Mead (euphonium); Andrew Haveron (violin); David Owen Norris (piano)
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Joseph Horovitz
rec. Cadogan Hall, London, 13-14 September 2006, Angel Studios, London, 14 November 2006
† premiere recordings

The Viennese-born émigré composer Joseph Horovitz made his home in England and absorbed its essence through his pores. He was a student of Gordon Jacob at the RCM and of Nadia Boulanger in Paris. His music demonstrates more in common with Jacob than with Boulanger. Theatre, ballet, opera and broadcast conducting posts made for a rewarding apprenticeship. There are sixteen ballets including Alice in Wonderland for Festival Ballet (1953), nine concertos (oboe, trumpet, clarinet, bassoon, euphonium, tuba, violin, percussion, jazz harpsichord/piano), various orchestral works, five string quartets, a clarinet Sonatina, the Horrortorio (1959), a Hoffnung commission (familiar from the EMI Hoffnung set) but let’s not forget the other Hoffnung special, the cantata Bournevita, Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo (1970), and Summer Sunday (1975), an ecological cantata and an oratorio Samson. Most recently there has been an opera Ninotchka.
No symphonies from this adopted Briton. That fits with the profile of his teachers Jacob and Boulanger. Jacob wrote several but he was much more attuned to concertos, suites and chamber pieces. These concertos present Horovitz as something of a chameleon, such is their variety. The Clarinet Concerto is lyrical, lucid and makes free with the accustomed woodnotes amid the capering maenads and satyrs. It’s from the same year as the Finzi and has that communing luminous impulse in common although Finzi would not have infused the sauntering finale with such jazzy informality. The Euphonium Concerto is grippingly determined yet exploits the considerable singing heart of the instrument. There’s no buffoonery here especially not in the Lento whose long-spun melody has the lineaments of a modest yet sweetly intoned carol. The finale has something of the quality of Frankel’s Carriage and Pair, carefree and slightly showy yet not undignified in the manner of a slightly whimsical 1950s British film score. The Violin Concerto (1949) is said by the composer – who should know – to be strongly influenced by the neo-classicism of Les Six. I am not convinced. It seems to me to be pretty romantic – even very redolent of the Barber at times. The Adagio bears something of the hand of Bach (1:49) but there is a dignified voluptuousness about both the orchestral skein and the solo line. The humming tension of the start of the folksy capering and skipping finale shows off the excellent work done by the Dutton engineers. The Jazz Concerto exists in versions for piano and for harpsichord. The title prepares you for the most overtly jazzy of the four concertos here. The keyboard, bass and drums rhythm trio are active prominently in the two outer movements which have the mien of the Jacques Loussier Bach of the 1950s and 1960s. The central movement is a harmonically wayward Slow Blues with something of the sultriness of Gershwin’s Summertime and the commercialism of Moon River. Sultry, yes, but this also a cooling episode.
We should not forget Horovitz’s entertaining Captain Noah And His Floating Zoo (1970) to words by Michael Flanders Chorus with piano, bass and percussion. This was first issued on Argo LP ZDA 149 in 1972 and has now been reissued on Dutton CDLF8120.
Discover Horovitz the craftsman whose touching cantilena is as accomplished as his jazzy lightness of being. Let’s now hear the other concertos, please.
Rob Barnett


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