This new instalment in ASV’s hopefully ongoing series
offers a number of short clarinet concertos by British composers,
some fairly familiar, others less so. The composers of several of
the pieces are, I think, new to the catalogue. Alan Paul is certainly
one of the latter (his name and music are new to me) and his fine
Clarinet Concerto is by far the longest and the most
substantial work here. Fairly traditional and accessible music,
superbly crafted and appealing in its own right, nodding towards
Vaughan Williams and Delius in the first movement. An unashamedly
lyrical slow movement of great beauty is followed by a lively Rondo.
A most welcome rarity and well worth having.
Both Joseph Horowitz and Geoffrey Bush are represented
here by short works dating from their early career (both were
in their early twenties). Horowitz’s Concertante
pays a wholehearted tribute to Weber without ever attempting to
imitate his music. On the other hand, Bush’s early Rhapsody
proclaims his indebtedness to and affinity with what may be referred
to as 20th Century British mainstream. Both pieces
are really well-made and highly enjoyable, each in its own way.
Guy Woolfenden is probably best-known as a composer
of highly successful and effective incidental music for the RSC.
His Clarinet Concerto, in two movements, opens with
a moderately fast first movement followed by a theme and variations,
which serves as a slow movement and a quick Finale. This very
fine piece is another welcome rarity that clearly deserves wider
exposure and that definitely whets one’s appetite for more of
Woolfenden’s concert works.
Malcolm MacDonald’s Cuban Rondo
is a delightful trifle in exotic rhythms, subtly scored for strings,
guitar, piano and light percussion. Its infectious light mood
is quite refreshing.
Adrian Cruft and Alan Ridout are both much underrated
composers whose superbly crafted and communicative music is sparsely
represented in the current catalogue. Cruft’s Clarinet Concerto
Op.21, written as a tribute to Gordon Jacob on his sixtieth
birthday, is a fine work that usefully reminds us that Adrian
Cruft was a very able clarinet player and had first-hand experience
of the instrument. The music here is somewhat more astringent,
but nevertheless quite enjoyable and accessible as is most of
Cruft’s output. Alan Ridout has a sizeable body of works to his
credit including eight symphonies (at the time of his untimely
death in 1996 he was at work on his Ninth Symphony commissioned
by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, but that work may not have
been completed), several concertos, a good number of organ and
choral music of which too little is currently available on discs.
His concise Clarinet Concertino is a delightful
piece and, to my mind, the real gem in this highly enjoyable selection
of unfamiliar, but worthwhile works.
Excellent performances throughout that serve
the music well. The present release is the worthy successor to
the earlier instalments in this series (British Bassoon Concertos,
British Recorder Concertos, British Oboe Concertos). So, what
next? Warmly recommended, anyway, were it only for pleasure’s