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ENGLISH RECORDER CONCERTOS
John GARDNER (born 1917)

Petite Suite Op.245 (2001)
John McCABE (born 1939)

Domestic Life (2000/1)
Peter LAWSON (born 1951)

Song of the Lesser Twayblade (2000)
Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929 – 1988)

Concerto Op.88 (1982)a
Philip LANE (born 1950)

Suite Champêtre (1982)
Wilfrid MELLERS (born 1914)

Aubade (1961)
Robin MILFORD (1903 – 1953)

Two Pipe Tunes (1929)
Norman KAY (1929 – 2001)

Mr Pitfield’s Pavane (2000)
Stephen DODGSON (born 1924)

Concerto Chacony (2000)
John Turner (recorder); Keith Elcombe (harpsichord)a; Royal Ballet Sinfonia; Gavin Sutherland
Recorded: Sony Music Studios, London, July 2001
ASV WHITE LINE CD WHL 2143 [76:58]


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Over the last few years, John Turner’s tireless and dedicated advocacy of English recorder music has brought an incredible amount of worthwhile, though often neglected recorder works "into the light of common day". Almost all pieces here were prompted, directly or indirectly, by John Turner and together provide for a marvellous and enjoyable musical experience. Each composer featured in this generously filled disc has his own approach, but all write idiomatically for the instrument. Most pieces are light-hearted, colourful and tuneful, sometimes with more than a hint of mild irony. Some, however, are more than that, as will be seen later.

Kenneth Leighton wrote a number of somewhat lighter works, such as his Dance Suites, but these lighter pieces nevertheless always display this composer’s earnestness of purpose. His Concerto for Recorder, Harpsichord and Strings Op.88 is no exception. Two predominantly serious movements frame a nimble scherzo, and the concerto’s third movement is a deeply-felt elegy of great expressive beauty. Similarly, Stephen Dodgson’s Concerto Chacony, for all its concision, has a rather unusual seriousness of intent and of expression. Peter Lawson’s Song of the Lesser Twayblade and the late Norman Kay’s Mr Pitfield’s Pavane display some more astringent harmonic writing that sometimes belies the works’ titles suggesting pretty musical vignettes, which these pieces are not. John Gardner’s Petite Suite Op.245, composed as recently as 2001, is another enjoyable example of this composer’s engaging Neo-Classicism. Such music never outstays its welcome. (Neither does any of the pieces recorded here.)

The other pieces are lighter in mood and, as such, contrast happily with the more serious pieces in this selection. Philip Lane’s delightful Suite Champêtre, originally for flute and harp and scored especially for this recording, sings and dances along throughout whereas John McCabe’s jolly frolic Domestic Life (which the composer modestly describes as a pièce d’occasion) displays some infectious humour and trips the light fantastic without any inhibition. This delightful trifle is a real winner, and you may well end up whistling its tunes.

Another welcome attraction is Mellers’ Aubade, originally a sonatina for recorder and piano written in 1961 and orchestrated in 2001 at John Turner’s suggestion. Collectors may remember a long-deleted LP of Mellers’ music (UEA 84119 released in 1984), but his music has been conspicuously absent from the catalogue since then, with the notable exception of his Opus Alchymicum for organ (available on NIMBUS NI 5580/1). This is yet another delightful miniature of great charm and marvellously scored for strings and optional Orff percussion.

Finally, a short tribute to Robin Milford whose centenary will hopefully not pass unnoticed this year. The Two Pipe Tunes recorded here come from his oratorio The Prophet in the Land Op.21 completed in 1929 and first heard in Gloucester Cathedral in 1931. Milford rescued the first tune as the second of his Three Airs Op.109 for recorder and piano. Philip Lane’s expert scoring for strings, made for this recording, does in no way obscure Milford’s wonderful tunes.

Up to now, ASV have graced us with several discs of rare English concertos and will hopefully go on, for there is so much worthwhile stuff still unheard at the time of writing. This release, anyway, is one of their finest so far: excellent playing and superb recording that serve the music well. A real winner.

Hubert Culot

 



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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