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Alun HODDINOTT (b. 1929)
Concerto for Clarinet and Strings Op.3 (1950)a [14:21]
Harp Concerto Op.11 (1957, rev. 1970)b [17:41]
Piano Concerto No.1 Op.19 (1960)c [19:06]
Piano Concerto No.2 Op.21 (1960, rev. 1969)d [16:15]
Gervase de Peyer (clarinet)a; Osian Ellis (harp)b; Philip Fowke (piano)c; Martin Jones (piano)d; London Symphony Orchestraab; Royal Philharmonic Orchestracd; David Athertonab, Barry Wordsworthc, Andrew Davisd
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, January 1971 (Clarinet Concerto, Harp Concerto), March 1973 (Piano Concerto No.2) and Walthamstow Assembly Room, 15 February 1996 (Piano Concerto No.1)
LYRITA SRCD.330 [67:28]

These comparatively early works were written between 1950 and 1960 but the Harp Concerto and the Second Piano Concerto were revised in 1970 and 1969 respectively. Interestingly enough, they are presented in chronological order, which allows one to trace Hoddinott’s progress over this important decade of his long and prolific composing career. Indeed, the lovely and playful Clarinet Concerto actually the first work that earned Hoddinott some recognition, is still somewhat indebted to, Alan Rawsthorne; none the worse for that. The Harp Concerto, composed in 1957 and revised in 1970, clearly displays considerable stylistic changes. Themes are now generally more angular and the scoring rather more strongly differentiated. The percussion plays an important part in the orchestral fabric. This will soon be regarded as a typical Hoddinott fingerprint, as is the composer’s liking for palindrome, both on the small-scale as well as on the more epic scale. The slow movement, too, already hints at Hoddinott’s many night music movements. Finally, the music displays Hoddinott’s remarkable orchestral mastery, for the composer successfully manages to create a perfectly satisfactory balance between the somewhat tenuous voice of the harp and the rather more massive orchestral forces. The harp is never obscured by the orchestra; no mean feat.

The Piano Concerto No.1, of which this is the first recording ever, is another example of Hoddinott’s growing assurance. The language is clearly much in tune with what is to be heard in the Harp Concerto. This is mature Hoddinott in many respects, although the composer would still refine and enlarge his palette in the years to come. However, the scoring for orchestral winds and percussion allows for considerably virile and muscular writing, not unlike that to be found in Hoddinott’s later music. A most welcome addition to this composer’s discography, especially in such a fine performance. One cannot but wonder why this splendid work is not heard more often.

To a certain extent, the Piano Concerto No.2 synthesises Hoddinott’s progress at this particular stage of his career. The composer’s voice is now fully distinctive; and it is clear that he has now firmly laid the foundation for his individual musical world. All his fingerprints are there: melodic, rhythmic and harmonic. The composer is now able to use his acquired personal technique with consummate assurance and complete freedom.

I have long loved these works - and these recordings, eagerly collected during the LP era. They have been superbly transferred and sound as fresh as when originally released. The more recent and hitherto unreleased recording of the First Piano Concerto is simply splendid and most welcome. I now hope that Lyrita will not be too long in releasing a re-issue of more Hoddinott recordings, that were originally released as "fill-ups" to some of the larger works. In the process, I hope that they will not forget a work that I consider to be one of Hoddinott’s most impressive orchestral scores, Variants.

This release as well as Lyrita SRCD.331 - Symphonies Nos. 2, 3 and 5 - offers the best possible introduction to Hoddinott’s rich and fascinating sound-world. Not to be missed.

Hubert Culot


see also reviews by Rob Barnett and Brian Wilson


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