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Humphrey PROCTER-GREGG (1895-1980)
Violin Sonata no.3 in F (1947) [20:28]
Clarinet Sonata (c. 1943) [19:21]
Horn Sonata in A (1975) [22:36]
Westmoreland Sketches for piano (1968): [14:02] (Shower in Spring (no.23); Summer Dreams (no.24); Autumn Reflections (no.25); Winter Elegy (no.26))
Nicholas Cox (clarinet); Robert Ashworth (horn); Richard Howarth (violin); Ian Buckle (piano)
rec. The King’s School, Macclesfield, 31 March, 1-2 April 2005
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7165 [76:49]

As the notes point out, Humphrey Procter-Gregg was among Stanford’s last pupils at the Royal College of Music. He was much associated with Beecham and opera as well as working for both the BNOC and the BBC. Dutton have already released his clarinet concerto on CDLX7153 (see review).
 
The 1947 sonata is a subtle Fauré-like piece of heart’s ease yet it remains distinctively English. There are some Delian turns along the way; the mature Delius rather than the Schumann-Grieg of the 1890s and early 1900s. Also notable is Procter-Gregg’s way of gently twisting the mood from dank to sunny. Notably lovely writing includes the sunny cantando of the third and final movement which sounds momentarily like the piano part of a Gurney song. There are four violin sonatas; I hope that we will hear more of these not to mention the sonatas for cello, viola and oboe.
 
The Clarinet Sonata plays to the instrument’s singing heart and voice. There are none of the dramatics of the Alwyn or Bax clarinet sonatas; instead we are in much the same territory as the Finzi Concerto and Bagatelles. Perhaps the odd dark cloud scuds by in the finale. This casts a spatter of chilly raindrops but it’s a transient shiver. The music is predominantly warming and ends, still and sun-drenched. Sheer magic.
 
The Horn Sonata was written 32 years after the one for clarinet. It at first hints at dissonance. This however is more of a chill as in the finale of the Clarinet Sonata but that shiver also returns in the second movement. The horn’s theme in the first movement touches on the brass band tradition as does the solo in the finale which is underpinned by some Bachian fugal fun.
 
For solo piano there are twenty-six Westmoreland Sketches. These were written during 1964-68. We are treated to four of them - the ones with named titles describe a perfect seasonal arc. The first and third are suitably impressionistic and shiver in the Northern chill. Summer Dreams recaptures the warmth - Chopin, Schumann and Gurney - of the two 1940s sonatas. The Winter Elegy is gaunt and stately - a touch of Grieg via early Rawsthorne perhaps.
 
Michael Almond’s notes are helpful but we really could have done with more about the circumstances of the writing of each of these sonatas.
 
I hope that Dutton will continue their questing and enterprising mission through the annals of British chamber music and not only with more Procter-Gregg - preferably from the 1940s and 1950s. My own recommendations to them include Cyril Rootham’s wonderful Violin Sonata (1925). Then there are the three violin sonatas of Joseph Holbrooke. The first is an early salon work. The other two are worth revival and include the Second which is a transcription of the Violin Concerto The Grasshopper and the Third a sinuous piece of Chinoiserie entitled Orientale.
 
Two irresistibly lyrical sonatas from the 1940s coupled with other works of a slightly chilly but still singing demeanour from the 1960s and 1970s.
 
Rob Barnett
 

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