Welcher has written a very
engaging Clarinet Concerto. It’s in two movements, with the
second a Blues and Toccata (on the name “Benny Goodman”),
completed in 1989. There are hints of Bernstein and big band
off-beats in the first movement, as well as a strong sense
of the filmic in the orchestration and not least in the clarinet
arabesques that are so splendid a feature. Welcher is certainly
inside the idiom in a way that, say, Malcolm Arnold, in his
own Goodman-inspired Concerto was not – oddly given his professed
affiliations with jazz. Welcher has assimilated the idiom
much less self-consciously. The opening fanfare appears in
a new time signature and there are some fine “string bass” rhythm
moments. The second movement is also coloured with jazz devices – hints
of brush work from the percussionist, varying kinds of articulation
for the soloist, the fine Bill Jackson, which include a few
yelps. A muted trumpet and a gradual thinning down of the
orchestral to the evocation of the classic Goodman Quartet,
with its clarinet, vibes, piano and drums personnel, is faithfully
mirrored here. We even end on a deliberate quotation of a
favourite Goodman lick. Most diverting all round.
Light, inspired by three Georgia O’Keefe watercolours is a slightly earlier
work. It has distinctive Francophile affiliations and wears
its influence without rancour or embarrassment. The influence
is Debussy and in its colour and dynamism it evokes the
canyon light with great precision and evocative aura. The
second of the three cleverly corrals wind instruments to
evoke the Crows of O’Keefe’s watercolour whilst the third
is airy with marimba-type sonority.
- How Maui Snared the Sun is
a long tone poem that can be performed without narration.
Here we have Richard Chamberlain - rather too quaky in
some scenes, where simplicity would have prevailed. This
is the weakest piece of the three though not without interest.
Once again much of the incident sounds filmic in orientation
but there’s a nice use of colour to depict this Hawaiian
myth. The sun’s rays are especially powerfully explored
as is the battle scene – trumpet and percussion - which
shows an imaginative ear at work.
performances are excellent, the recording extremely good
and the notes are the composer’s own. Play this disc in reverse
order and you’ll certainly start happy. One final thing – this
was previously released on Marco Polo in 1992 so don’t make
the mistake of thinking it’s a new recording.