Philip SPRATLEY (b.1942)
Music for string orchestra
Sinfonietta op. 6 (1987) [26:30]
Clarinet Concertino - Byard's Leap op. 27 (1980s) [16:16]
Recorder Concertino - A Gallery of Cats op. 26 (1983 rev.
2008) [13:00] In Outlaw Country - Suite for Harp, Strings and Trumpet (1971
rev. 2007?) [15:52]
Linda Merrick (clarinet);
John Turner (recorder); Tracey Redfern (trumpet); Eira Lynn Jones
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Barry Wordsworth
Manchester Sinfonia/Philip Spratley
rec. 16 March 2007, Angel Studios, London; 15 September 2008, St
Thomas’ Church, Hillgate, Stockport. TOCCATA TOCC0088
Martin Anderson’s Toccata continue to challenge critics
like myself who hanker after a more adventurous approach to
repertoire. That he does this through the publication of book
and compact discs is remarkable. Toccata’s Discovery Club
is worth more than a second look if you are looking for a steady
stream of new and usually rewarding voices.
I confess not have heard of Philip Spratley until this disc
was issued. He was born in Nottinghamshire and his string orchestra
music is warmly and lyrically complex. Having studied in Manchester
he has worked in Essex and then for many years in Lincolnshire.
He is not all that prolific - just 53 pus numbers to date.
The Sinfonietta for strings and timpani has a
tawny intense and warmly surging quality that touches on Tippett
without quite his finely entwined filigree. The third movement
has the hunted feel of a Britten work and a desperately Beethovenian
quality. Lyricism and desperation meet in the delta that is
the finale. The Clarinet Concertino tells of the mythical
Lincolnshire horse Byard who after trouncing Meg, an evil old
hag, lives to old age after a miraculous episode win which he
is able to confide in two children who befriend him in old age.
The music reminds me in its songful directness and pensive reflection
of his RNCM tutor Thomas Pitfield, calligrapher, composer, draughtsman
and all-round renaissance Englishman. It also touches on the
surface of RVW and Finzi territory. That Spratley should have
written A Gallery of Catsfor that hero
of the recorder and of British music at large John Turner comes
as little surprise. After all Spratley has always had cats …
and not just one. John Turner is called on to use different
instruments (soprano, treble, tenor and sopranino) across the
work’s seven movements - each with its own ‘olde
worlde’ title - including Corante, Rigadoon,
Alla Pavan and Alla Giga. These sometimes chilly
miniatures fly by with a wink, a chuckle and a shiver. They
combine a sense of feline macabre and goose-pimple melancholia.
Perhaps it is something about the recorder but the warmth of
a cat in front of the fire must not have been the composer's
intention. In Outlaw Country - Spratley has an inspired
touch in devising titles - is concise, plangent, debonair and
opulent. It’s the most uncomplicatedly playful of the
What price now a recording of Spratley’s major A Choral
Symphony on poems by John Clare? It was premiered by the
Grantham Choral Society conducted by Michael Lank. Now there’s
a work I would like to hear.
The composer provides his own revealing liner-notes. There he
says: “Music is an act of friendship and one should always
have one’s audience and listeners in mind.” The
music bears out this sentiment.
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