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British Clarinet Concertos
Alan PAUL (1905 – 1968)

Clarinet Concerto (1958)
Joseph HOROWITZ (b.1926)

Concertante (1948)
Guy WOOLFENDEN (b.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]

The six concertos presented on this disc are by Alan Paul, Joseph Horovitz, Guy Woolfenden, Malcolm MacDonald, Adrian Cruft and Alan Ridout. All were composed between 1940 and 1985. Some licence with the term "concerto" has been taken, as at least two of the works are under six minutes long. However, the abundance of good tunes and diversity of styles, from serious music to jazzy rhythms and a Cuban Rondo make this a most entertaining recording. There is a "light music" feel to much of it and this gives it an infectious "feel good" factor that makes for continuing listening pleasure. This label, ASV Whiteline, is proving a champion of British music of this type and is to be encouraged for providing a welcome relief to much contemporary "serious" music. All the composers here display great feeling for the capabilities of the clarinet in a wide variety of moods and styles.

Alan Paul's three movement work from 1958 has a good flow to it and is well scored for the chamber orchestra forces required, with some skilful playing from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia soloists. The heritage of Vaughan Williams and Delius gives this music a strong English flavour, and Ian Scott's high register playing displays fine control.

The Concertante of Joseph Horovitz, written in 1948 for Gervase de Peyer, is a less obviously British work than AIan Paul’s Concerto, perhaps because of Horovitz's Viennese origins and studies with Nadia Boulanger. It is modelled on Weber's Concertino and very skilfully shadows the original with virtuosic writing for the soloist.

The Alan Paul Concerto and the Concerto by Guy Woolfenden were both written for Jack Brymer. The latter was commissioned to celebrate Jack Brymer's 70th birthday in 1985. It is unusual in having only two movements, the first a lyrical flowing discourse and the second a theme and variations. Woolfenden's experience as Head of Music to the Royal Shakespeare Company, and writing well over a hundred scores for the company's productions, shows in some highly original scoring and subtle rhythmic inflections. The flowing line of the first movement and the wit and insouciance of the second are a fitting tribute to Jack Brymer's personality and his position in the pantheon of British wind players. Ian Scott is a worthy successor and catches the style of this music with easy grace.

Geoffrey Bush's Rhapsody for Clarinet and Strings dates from 1940 and shows the influence of Vaughan Williams. It is a gentle pastoral idyll, which begins and ends with a beautiful folk-song like melody, that seems familiar, but is probably Bush's own. Scott's beautifully fluid runs and his persuasive way with the long melody is seductive.

The Cuban Rondo of 1960 by Malcolm MacDonald is a gentle amble through some Latin American rhythms that Scott glides through with a controlled languor, ably assisted by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia percussion section. There is nothing stiff here, just an infectiously happy feel to the music and Scott's evident enjoyment of it.

Adrian Cruft’s Concertino was premiered in 1955 by Sidney Fell, a former principal of the London Symphony Orchestra, whose beautiful playing was a feature of the many sound-tracks recorded by the Sinfonia of London at Denham Studios, in the heyday of the British film industry in the post-war decades. Cruft's writing for the clarinet shows an intimate familiarity and a musicality that promotes a desire for a wider knowledge of his music.

The three movement Concertino by Alan Ridout from 1978 is a short (very!) piece that displays energy and a good knowledge of the clarinet that makes one feel that there is a longer and more interesting piece struggling to get out.

Ian Scott, in his programme notes, states that much of the music on this disc was inspired by the playing of the great British clarinet players of the recent past. He cites Reginald Kell, Jack Brymer, Frederick Thurston and Sidney Fell as players whose vocal styles and freedom of expression made the British school of clarinet playing so admired in the second half of the twentieth century. Scott's own style is in the same mould, with a fluid comprehensive technique, secure intonation and a warm tone quality, with a touch of vibrato here and there that is always in good taste. He encompasses the various moods that these differing compositions call for with ease. As well as this, he plays the tunes, with which these compositions abound, with a grace and sense of style that is refreshing. Just listen to the way that he plays the haunting tune that comes towards the end of the variations in the second movement of Woolfenden's Concerto. Superb.

Gavin Sutherland directs the Royal Ballet Sinfonia with a sure touch, and the violin soloist and wind players of this fine orchestra disport themselves with style. In all, a fine recording and Ian Scott's infectious enthusiasm can be felt throughout. Highly recommended.

Victor Slaymark

See also review by Hubert Culot

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