> JACOB Chamber music for clarinet PRO9226 [RB]: Classical Reviews- April 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Chamber Music for Clarinet

Concertino (for clarinet and piano) [12.09]
Five Pieces for Solo Clarinet [10.05]
Three Songs for Soprano and Clarinet [6.03]
Clarinet Quintet [29.58]
Daniel Geeting (clarinet)
Samela Aird Beasom (soprano)
David Stenske; Melissa Phelps-Beckstead (violins)
Richard Rintoul (viola)
Joyce Geeting (cello)
rec 5 Mar, 30 Apr, 30 June, Memorial Chapel, University of Redlands, Redlands, California DDD
PROdigital PRO-9226 [58.38]


Experience Classicsonline

Jacob's melodic music remained so over his long life regardless of transient norms and critical fashion. The music is succinct; never prolix or windy. It is always to the point leaving you wanting more rather than saturating you in an idea.

Like Bliss (who also wrote a clarinet quintet) Gordon Jacob lost his brother (Anstey) in the Great War. Like Arthur Benjamin, Jacob was made a prisoner of war. Jacob's First Symphony is as much a Great War symphony as Bliss's Morning Heroes.

The little Concertino is freely arranged from two Tartini sonatas alive with Bachian vitality and Handelian calm. The first movement is flashingly active followed by an adagio and an allegro risoluto both of which are Mozartian.

The Five Pieces for solo clarinet feature a searching Preamble, a highly probing and poignantly Finzian Waltz, a Fantasy in which homage to Bach is unmistakable, a Soliloquy that could easily jostle with RVW's wonderful and little known Three Vocalises for soprano and clarinet and a flightily jazzy scherzo and trio.

English song is well recognised and perhaps well understood as a genre. Voice and piano is the most common combination; voice and another single instrument far less so. There are a few obvious examples including Vaughan Williams' masterly Housman cycle Along the field (tenor and violin) recorded by Gordon Pullen and the chaste ice and fire of Holst's Four Medieval Songs (for soprano and violin) once broadcast by the BBC in the early 1970s luminously sung by Felicity Palmer. Jacob's Three Songs are in the mainstream. Of all the birds that I do know cross refers to the 'Philip Sparrow' section of RVW's Tudor Portraits. This sounds tough on the voice but Beasom is much more kindly treated in Flow my tears which has a When I am laid in earth gravity. Try this wonderful song which is extremely well sustained by Beasom. The final song, Who comes here, is light-hearted and brimming with new-minted joy. The words of all three songs are printed in full in the booklet.

The four movement Clarinet Quintet is a work of melodic weave denser than any of the other works on this disc. Seek out, at 4.39 in track 13, one of a number of notably haunted incidents and a beautiful coup which has the clarinet singing above tremolando at tr 13 (5.10). The scherzo uses an insistent little ostinato which is a brother (well, perhaps half-brother) to the 'galloper' cell in Sibelius's Nightride and Sunrise. The Rhapsody affirms Jacob's Fenland roots. The finale is in tripartite form: Introduction, Theme and Variations. This has a rigid academic effect at first but soon casts this off for a walking theme accompanied by a pizzicato ostinato. The theme is knocked about among the soloists: Jacob treats all five players as equals. This admirable work has more than its share of moments when the composer stills the heartbeat and holds the passage of time in the cup of his hands. I believe that there is another recording on Meridian which I confess to not having heard.

The PROdigital sound has a very strong profile. If the disc has a drawback it is that it is so intimately balanced that you can hear Geeting's clicking key action which is distracting at first.

The list of dedicatees reads like a mini-honour roll of the finest British clarinetists: Frederick Thurston for the Quintet, Georgina Dobree (you may well recall her LPs of the Coleridge Taylor Quintet and Stanford Sonata) for the Five Pieces and Alan Frank (later of OUP) for the songs.

I detect a labour of love here and thankfully it shows in the playing which is always engaging and engaged.

This is a lovely disc - utterly idiomatic and far too easily neglected perhaps because it is from a smallish label and with US origins. It is well past time that world listeners and especially those in the UK opened their arms to non-British interpreters of British music.

Rob Barnett


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