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British Clarinet Concertos
Alan PAUL (1905 – 1968)

Clarinet Concerto (1958)
Joseph HOROWITZ (born 1926)

Concertante (1948)
Guy WOOLFENDEN (born 1937)

Clarinet Concerto (1985, rev. 2002)
Geoffrey BUSH (1920 – 1998)

Rhapsody (1940)
Malcolm MACDONALD (1916 – 1992)

Cuban Rondo (1960)
Adrian CRUFT (1921 – 1987)

Clarinet Concertino Op.21 (1955)
Alan RIDOUT (1934 – 1996)

Clarinet Concertino (1978)
Ian Scott (clarinet)
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland
Recorded: Henry Wood Hall, London, April 2002
ASV WHITE LINE CD WHL 2141 [72:14]
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 sake.

Hubert Culot

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