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Jigs, Airs and Reels
Franz REIZENSTEIN (1911 – 1968)

Partita Op.13 (1939, arr. 1953)
John JEFFREYS (b. 1927)

Prelude and Jig for John Turner (2000, rev. 2001)
Malcolm ARNOLD (b. 1921)

Fantasy Op.140 (1991)
William Lewarne HARRIS (b. 1929)

Quintet (2002)
Robin WALKER (b. 1953)

Dances from The Bells of Blue Island (2001, rev. 2003)
Edward GREGSON (b. 1945)

Romance (1964, rev. 2003)
Philip COWLIN (b. 1920)

Concertino (2003)
Ernest TOMLINSON (b. 1924)

Chadkirk Idyll (2002, rev. 2003)
John VEALE (b. 1922)

Triptych (2003)
John Turner (recorder); Camerata Ensemble
Recorded: Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, Manchester University, September 2003
CAMPION CAMEO 2034 [76:59]


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I was a little concerned about the title of this disc since not all the pieces include a jig, an air or a reel but I suppose the title is used in the literary sense where, in a novel, there is one event which may be short-lived but gives the book its title.

There is no doubting John Turner's ability as a recorder player and some of us are glad that he gave up a career in the legal profession to delight us with his musicality. In addition, he is a most congenial man encouraging British composers to write works for him both to perform and record. He is also a marvellous conversationalist and a man of modesty - a further proof of the fundamental goodness of his character.

I loved the playing of the string quartet who produce a rich, warm sound.

Not knowing these pieces or having scores I can only opine that the performances accord with the composers' wishes. There is certainly a commitment and a clear integrity in the performances. There are no strong points because there are no weak ones.

It is not easy, nor is it recommended to listen to all the pieces at one hearing but it is good to see composers represented here lest we forget.

Some of the music is not of a very high standard. In fact some of it is rather poor having nothing to say and being anaemic and uninteresting. Nonetheless that charge must not be levelled at Mr Turner whose kindness and consideration must remain the focus of our gratitude. The notes in the booklet to this CD do whet the appetite and yet some of the music does not satisfy.

Probably the best work on the disc is by Franz Reizenstein. He was a German Jew born in Nuremberg in 1911 and having the good fortune to study with Paul Hindemith. Hindemith and Matyas Seiber were the two great music teachers of the twentieth century. Reizenstein came to London in 1934 to escape the Nazi movement. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was afforded some broadcasts by the BBC and performances in Europe. He told me that he was having performances in Germany because he was a German and performances in Israel because he was a Jew and performances in the UK because England had adopted him. He composed two piano concertos and a concerto each for violin and cello, the latter being in G sharp minor - which we performed in 1965 to the delight of the composer. There are piano sonatas and some good piano pieces (Reizenstein was an exceptional pianist) and the big oratorio Genesis. Most of his music is published by Lengnick.

Like Hindemith he was very accomplished in composing for any instruments and forces. The Partita Opus 13 was inspired by the recorder player Manuel Jacobs and originally composed in 1939 and revised in 1953. It is in four movements namely Entrada, Sarabande, Bourree and Jig and is clearly in line with the baroque dance suite format. It recalls the composer's German period hence the affinity with Bach but the originality in the music is seen in its grace and delicacy. Watch out for the cock crow in the final Jig. The Bourree has a catchy tune.

John Jeffreys comes from Welsh stock and therefore one expects fine work from him; we are not disappointed. This is a most engaging work and I will say no more but let you discover it for yourself.

He was born in 1927 and I hang my head in shame to say I have not heard anything else by him. He has written a symphony, three violin concertos, a cello concerto and many songs as well as a string quartet.

Sir Malcolm Arnold is dependent on help of all kinds these days due to his age and weakness but when I talk with him he is alert and remembers things of the past with amazing clarity. The composer David Ellis has helped him greatly over the years particularly with his Cello Concerto which Julian Lloyd Webber premiered but, apparently, did not like. This was, I understand, very hurtful to Sir Malcolm as was the BBC's rejection of the Symphony no. 9 also considered sparse and amateurish. What this enigmatic symphony did was to reveal the real Sir Malcolm, a man maligned and mistreated for most of his life who hid his emotional pains behind jovial and sparkling music. I do not rate this Fantasy very highly. It seems to be a contradiction of many styles but the facility is still there. However the finale tests the soloist and Mr Turner is more than equal to it.

Robin Walker comes form York. In 2001 he completed his chamber opera The Bells of Blue Island. The work on this CD is a selection of quick dances from that and an exploitation of the Irish song She moved through the fair. It is very likeable and the infectious playing makes the music sound better than it might be.

I admire Edward Gregson immensely but his versatility and skill may not always be matched by the content of his compositions.

Both Philip Cowlin and Ernest Tomlinson share with Mr Turner an association with Stockport. Tomlinson is a Lancastrian and is often unfairly labelled as a miniaturist or a composer of light music and an arranger. His preoccupation with jazz, particularly in the 1960s has lead some to believe that he is not a serious composer. This is unjust and we need a revival of his more serious music.

Chadkirk Idyll is a tribute to Stockport, whose football team has just survived relegation from the Second Division and which town has a grammar school with an excellent choir. In this piece Tomlinson depicts the lonely chapel in the river valley. The work is very melodious.

My friend John Veale is the final contributor. His Triptych is obviously in three sections, a syncopated dance, a slow sad middle section and a waltz finale. It is a fun piece and I have often bemoaned the fact that John has not written more chamber and instrumental music. Originally it was written for recorder and guitar and Mr Turner has performed it in that version. John Veale has written another recorder piece Impromptu In Memory of Tracey Chadwell for unaccompanied treble recorder. This cites some themes from his The Song of Radha. Tracey was a delightful person and a very gifted soprano who was keen to perform John's Song of Radha but the leukaemia returned and she sadly lost her battle with that disease. I will still treasure the many letters she wrote to me.

I recommend this disc but I have to repeat the reservation that some of the music is not particularly good.

David C F Wright

see also review by Hubert Culot



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