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Peter HOPE (b. 1930)
Serenade (2005)a [19:21]
Bramall Hall Dances (2001)b [13:35]
Four Sketches (2002)c [14:32]
A Herrick Garland (2003)d [12:17]
Divertimento (2001)e [14:30]
James Bowman (counter-tenor)d; Craig Ogden (guitar)e; John Turner (recorder)bd; Stéphane Rancourt (oboe)c; Graham Salvage (bassoon)c; David Francis (harpsichord)bd; Peter Lawson (piano)c; Manchester Camerata (Richard Howarth (violin); Richard Williamson (viola); Jonathan Price (cello))ae
rec. Alderley Edge Methodist Church, 19 December 2005 (Serenade, Divertimento); Worlaston Church, 11 June 2004 (Bramall Hall Dances, A Herrick Garland) and King’s School, Macclesfield, 1 April 2005 (Four Sketches)
DUTTON CDLX7192 [74:50]
Experience Classicsonline

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first disc entirely devoted to Peter Hope’s music. Some other works of his have been released previously in ASV’s White Line Series and, more recently still on Dutton Epoch. I particularly enjoyed his Bassoon Concerto (ASV CDWHL2132) and his most attractive Recorder Concerto (Dutton CDLX7154).

The Serenade for string trio is the most recent work in this survey. It is in five concise movements. It opens with a march-like first movement in which echoes from Britten may be briefly heard. This is followed by a fleeting, rather mysterious Scherzo with a somewhat bluesy central section. The last three movements are all dance-like: a melancholy Tango, a Waltz and a lively, jaunty Rondo.

Bramall Hall Dances, originally written for recorder and guitar and recorded as such by John Turner and Neil Smith on Cameo 2020, is heard here in another version for recorder, harpsichord and cello. This is a short suite of dances evoking both old and modern popular dance idiom, rather in the same frame as Alwyn’s Elizabethan Dances. It opens with archaic sounding Round Dance and Pavane and concludes with a Waltz and a Galop.

The Four Sketches for oboe, bassoon and piano were composed for Graham Salvage. Much of the music of this delightful work brings reminiscences of Gordon Jacob and Francis Poulenc; none the worse for that since Poulenc’s own Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano is one of his most endearing chamber works. The work is in four short, neatly characterised movements of which the third is particularly beautiful.

“Herrick’s poems have a lyrical and often pastoral character of considerable charm and lend themselves readily to musical setting” (Peter Hope). This is clearly evident in the opening song Sing of Brooks. The second song The Night Piece has a mysterious, dreamlike atmosphere whereas the third song Upon Julia’s Voice is rather more intensely lyrical. The fourth fairly carefree setting To the Virgins, to make much of time perfectly reflects the carpe diem attitude suggested by the words. A Herrick Garland ends in good humour with a lively setting of Delight in Disorder. The archaic sound of the ensemble (recorder, harpsichord and cello) adds just the right touch of affectionate pastiche.

Again, each of the three movements of the Divertimento for guitar and string trio has its own character. Unlike many composers who while writing for guitar, more often than not try to avoid the all-too-obvious Spanish clichés associated to the instrument, Peter Hope indulges in them in the first movement. On the other hand, the beautiful slow movement is yet another example of Peter Hope’s ability to write lyrical music without any sentimentality. The third movement is a “Deep South hoedown”, as the composer describes it, with banjo-like textures on the guitar and bluegrass violin playing, so that this most enjoyable work concludes in high spirits.

Peter Hope’s music does not attempt plumbing any great depths and is refreshingly unpretentious. This is easy-going and accessible music-making, which does not mean that the music is easy to play, far from it; but Hope’s craftsmanship has one forgetting about technique when listening to these attractive and often quite beautiful works.

This generously filled, beautifully engineered and superbly played release rather passed unnoticed, I am afraid. I cannot remember ever reading a review of it - although I may be mistaken. So, here it is. Anyone who has already heard some of Peter Hope’s music will need no further recommendation. Others should give it a try for this is melodic, well crafted and sincere and deserves to be heard.

Hubert Culot 



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