This is both an enterprising and most welcome disc.
It remains a mystery to me why the Clarinet Concerto of the British
composer, John Veale, has had to wait fifty years for a commercial recording
... and, when that does eventually happen, for which we are grateful, it
does not take place in Britain, but in Australia. It is such a good piece
... instantly and endearingly fresh and so totally likeable that it should
have been available, and remained available, on a commercial recording since
its first appearance. It is in one movement and is monothematic. It has a
wonderful contrast of energy and exquisite lyricism; it is always melodic
and beautifully coloured. Added to that is the fact that it is so gloriously
English with its therapeutic qualities. It is nostalgic but not of the wallowing
kind although I think the soloist does tend to take the last slow section
slightly too slow ... the nature of the music is to display all its beauty
and to demonstrate the soloist's warm and secure tone.
This and the Dance Preludes of Lutoslawski are, without doubt, the
finest works on this disc. The Preludes are five delightful short
pieces but they are not miniatures or trite. They are superbly written and
exceptionally well played. They are a perfect model to both justify and prove
a point I often make. One expects an allegro to be quick and lively
throughout and yet some composers call a movement allegro and it isn't.
If it begins allegro and then has expanses of slow music in it, it
is not an allegro. Great and lesser composers from Shostakovitch and
Sibelius to Elgar have designated music as allegro when it is
predominantly slow or, at least, easy paced. Lutoslawski's three allegro
movements are just the thing ... quick and lively. We don't have to always
refer to Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven for real allegros. Consider the
finale of Arthur Butterworth's Symphony No 1. In the noble classical
tradition it is quick and lively throughout and not infuriating
'stop and start' music. By contrast, Lutoslawski's two slow preludes are
full of interest and never dull.
And the soloist and the orchestra do them proud.
The Clarinet Concerto of Walter Piston seems to be the work of a tired
composer. It is simply four variations and lasts just over twelve minutes,
and one gets the impression that Piston could not face the prospect of writing
an extended, elaborate or conventional piece. More's the pity since his
Viola Concerto, written ten years earlier in 1957, is a superb work
following logical constructional methods. About 87 percent of the Clarinet
Concerto is slowish and rather ordinary with a final Vivo eventually
injecting some life into it. It is well written, competent and pleasant but
it lacks contrast in tempi and rhythmic interest.
Nigel Sabin is an Australian composer who was born in 1960. An Australian
Holiday was written in a hurry, through no fault of the composer, and
is resultantly brief. It fulfils its intentions well enough.
The most extensive work is by the soloist's brother, Brett Dean who was born
in 1961. It is, in effect, a concerto and in two parts. The Ariel of the
title refers to a seven-year-old American girl who died of the AIDS virus
in 1988. Her mother, Elisabeth, who was married to the actor Paul Michael
Glaser until her own death in 1994, had been given some contaminated blood
during the later stages of her pregnancy. This concerto is a document of
human tragedy, grief and desolation rather than, primarily, being a musical
work. Because of its very nature, it is uneasy music and may need application
of the mind and the understanding of the circumstances that lie behind this
work. Incidentally, the second movement is called Circumstances and
the first, Elegy.
Those who can fully identify with the subject matter of this substantial
work will be those who value it. I can since my first girlfriend, who was
Vietnamese and a superb cellist, died from contracting a virus in a swimming
pool in 1967. AIDS is also a virus and I contend that it could
be contracted in a swimming pool and I am sickened by medical and
scientific 'experts' who tell me that no virus can be contracted in this
way or lead to any fatality. I intend to publish my findings since, like
Brett Dean, I bitterly lament innocent deaths caused by the failures, lifestyles
and dismissive attitudes of others. Unnecessary deaths are the greatest crimes
[ See extracts from David Wrights
autobiography - LM]
The performances, recording and sound are very good. It is certainly a disc