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
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
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.
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
. 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
recaptures the warmth - Chopin, Schumann and
Gurney - of the two 1940s sonatas. The Winter Elegy
gaunt and stately - a touch of Grieg via early Rawsthorne
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.
irresistibly lyrical sonatas from the 1940s coupled with
other works of a slightly chilly but still singing demeanour
from the 1960s and 1970s.