British Clarinet Music
Charles Harford LLOYD (1859-1919)
Suite in the Old Style (1914) [9.48]
Charles Villers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Three Intermezzi Op. 13 (1879) [8.03]; Sonata in F major Op. 129 (1911) [18.25]
William Yeates HURLSTONE (1876-1906)
Four Characteristic Pieces (1901) [14.34]
Cecil ARMSTRONG GIBBS (1889-1960)
Three Pieces (1957) [7.56]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Five Bagatelles Op. 23 (1943) [13.49]
Alessandro Travaglini (clarinet); Christopher Howell (piano)
rec. Studio “L’Etremo”, Lessona, Italy, 21 February, 25 May 2009
SHEVA 021 [75.59]
Surveys of British music for clarinet and piano are not uncommon but this is a well constructed programme. It starts with a first ever recording of the complete Suite in the Old Style, written by Charles Harford Lloyd, on the cusp of the First World War. There are very pleasing baroque insinuations here but real melodic charm as well. The Sarabande sounds very violinistic – one can imagine it being based on something by Leclair, let’s say. Stanford’s Intermezzi are zesty and engaging pieces. The second of the three is especially sprightly in this performance, strongly rhythmic, and vital. You can hear the two musicians move around a little in the recording spectrum as indeed you can at the start of the equally exciting concluding Allegretto.
Stanford’s Sonata is the centrepiece of the disc, an important and satisfying work written in 1911. It receives an interesting performance as well, with its Caoine taken at a most expressive tempo. The tempo relations work well though and ensemble is good and the roulades of that slow movement sound very plangent at the chosen speed. That said its B section emerges as more clement or emollient than truly contrastive, a decision that means that other performances – say Plane and Frith on Naxos 8.570416 or King/Benson are more bracing. Alessandro Travaglini’s tone tends also to be ‘softer’ than his counterparts and this adds another different gloss on proceedings.
Hurlstone’s Four Characteristic Pieces is pretty much a repertoire item, for British clarinettists at least. Unlike the Stanford Sonata’s slow movement the duo gets on with things in the opening Ballade though, because the acoustic is rather distant, the sound isn’t optimally flattering and you may need to turn up the level - which led to a touch of distortion on my playback. The full colouristic potential of this lovely music isn’t properly realised. Another repertory piece, and not just for native players, is the Finzi Bagatelles. There is some sensitive playing here, with good ensemble but there’s little joie de vivre in the Fughetta and again the cloudy recording is a let-down. It’s good to hear Armstrong Gibbs’s Pieces – the highlight is the delicious Air.
Recording issues will affect things here, and a deal needs to be done to iron out problems.
Jonathan Woolf
Recording issues will affect things here, and a deal needs to be done to iron out problems ... see Full Review