> Lutoslawski - Seiber - Blake [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Witold LUTOSLAWSKI (1913 – 1994)
Dance Preludes (1954, orch. 1955)
Mátyás SEIBER (1905 – 1960)

Concertino for Clarinet and String Orchestra (1928, orch. 1951)
Howard BLAKE (born 1938)

Clarinet Concerto (1984)
Thea King (clarinet); English Chamber Orchestra;
Andrew Litton, Howard Blake
Recorded: May-June 1985 (Blake) and April 1986 (Lutoslawski, Seiber)
HELIOS CDH 55068 [46:41]


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Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes for clarinet and piano were composed in 1954 and the orchestral version for small orchestra recorded here was made by the composer in 1955. This well-known and popular piece is a typical product of Lutoslawski’s attitude during the painful Stalinist years in Poland. He chose to compose folk-inspired music rather than comply with the Socialist Realism’s dictates. The peak of his output of that period is the magnificent Concerto for Orchestra of 1954. In any version, Dance Preludes is a delightful, folksy piece that has since become highly popular, and quite deservedly so.

The music of Seiber is still too little-known nowadays although some of his late major works were recorded by Decca many years ago during the LP era (some of these recordings have been re-issued on Continuum). The Concertino for Clarinet and String Orchestra is the only one so far that has been recorded more than once. (Another recording was issued by RCA in 1977.) Originally written as a clarinet quintet in 1928, it was arranged for string orchestra in 1951. It is also a folk-inspired piece that brings Kodaly or Lajtha rather than Bartók to mind. It is a hugely enjoyable piece, and it is good to have this fine performance available again.

Howard Blake is a versatile composer who may be better known for his marvellous film scores The Snowman and Granpa in which his gifts for colourful orchestration and memorable tunes are clearly evident. He nevertheless also composed a good deal of concert works including the superb choral-orchestral Benedictus and several concertos. Though the intent is overtly more serious, the music of the Clarinet Concerto of 1984 is still memorably tuneful, superbly scored and quite attractive. The Clarinet Concerto is in every respect a fine work that deserves wider currency, and Thea King’s advocacy should earn this fine piece many new friends, hopefully among clarinettists.

An attractive programme, superbly performed and recorded. If you did not get it when it was first released, you now have no reason to ignore it, especially at the customer-friendly bargain price of the Helios re-issues.

Hubert Culot

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