> 2oth Century Music for Clarinet - Romano [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907 – 1994)

Fantasia (1979)
Anthony POWERS (born 1953)

Sea/Air (1985)
Piers HELLAWELL (born 1956)

High Citadels (1994)
Harrison BIRTWISTLE (born 1934)

Verses (1965)
Richard Rodney BENNETT (born 1936)

Scena III (1977)
Hugh WOOD (born 1932)

Paraphrase on Birds of Paradise Op.26 (1985)
Gordon CROSSE (born 1937)

A Year and a Day (1979)
Martin BUTLER (born 1960)

Capistrano Song (1984)
Michael BERKELEY (born 1948)

Flighting (1987)
Kate Romano (clarinet); Alan Hicks (piano)
Recorded: Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, July 1995 and March 1996
METIER MSV CD92013 [68:44]

The earliest piece in this recital is Birtwistle’s Verses for Clarinet and Piano of 1965. This is early Birtwistle with much epigrammatic writing and a piece in which performers often exchange roles. It proved much more accessible than I first thought. On the whole, this is an engaging miniature with much idiomatic writing for the clarinet.

Richard Rodney Bennett’s Scena III (1977) is a kaleidoscopic study of somewhat improvisatory nature alternating quieter and more agitated episodes exploiting the full expressive range of the clarinet in much the same way as in Gordon Crosse’s A Year and a Day (1979).

Elizabeth Maconchy composed her Fantasia for Clarinet and Piano in 1979. It is of course a more traditional piece, though one with much invention and with more searching harmonies, the latter a characteristic of her later music.

Hugh Wood composed three song sets on words by Robert Graves (Set 1 Op.18 [1966/7], Set 2 Op.22 [1977/82] and Set 3 Op.25 [1966/83]). The last song of the third set A Bird of Paradise provides the basic material for his Paraphrase Op.26 completed in 1985. This is a fantasy in variation form. The sober, restrained ending is particularly moving. This is a beautiful piece that should be heard more often.

The younger composers also found many different interesting ways to deal with the clarinet. Anthony Powers’ Sea/Air for solo clarinet is also much of an improvisation that "demands much dexterity in the turbulent and fast-moving passages and restrained control in the contrasting calm and tranquillity" (Kate Romano). In High Citadels (1994), Piers Hellawell sometimes relies on what sounds like a prepared piano or, at least, on some playing inside the piano which modifies the perspective of the traditional clarinet and piano duo. The three short sections are highly contrasted and provide for a wholly satisfying piece well worth hearing. Martin Butler’s Capistrano Song (1984) is for clarinet and pre-recorded tape. It proves to be a most engaging miniature. The last item may be somewhat better known since it was recorded a few years ago by Emma Johnson. Flighting (1987) by Michael Berkeley is an improvisation based on the song Père du doux repos composed at about the same time. Its consolatory tone provides for a moving conclusion to this superb recital.

Kate Romano, who also wrote the excellent insert notes, is a wonderfully equipped musician whose flawless technique and consummate musicianship are evident throughout this well-thought out survey of the variety achieved by very different composers when dealing with the clarinet. Alan Hicks is a superb partner. Recommended.

Hubert Culot

            Kate Romano

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