Christopher BALL (b.1936)
Music for Cello
Cello Concerto No. 1 [37:45]
Emerald Concert Orchestra/composer
Song Without Words [5:49]
Roundelay [2:04]
Close of the Day [3:59]
Scarborough Fair [2:54]
The Star of the County Down [1:33]
Brigg Fair [2:58]
Bonnie Dundee / The Water Is Wide [2:57]
Yoko Misumi (piano)
For Stjepan (cello solo)
Stjepan Hauser (cello)
rec. All Saints Church, Weston-super-Mare, 15 August 2010, Wyastone Concert Hall, 14 December 2010. DDD

Christopher Ball is a British clarinettist, composer and conductor. He was born in Leeds and studied clarinet and piano at the Royal Manchester College of Music alongside contemporaries such as Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies, Goehr and Ogdon. His teachers at the Royal Academy of Music were Jack Brymer, Reginald Kell and Gervase de Peyer. He participated in conducting masterclasses with Monteux, Silvestri, Mackerras, Del Mar and Solti. He is reported to be interested in early music and founded the Praetorius Consort with oboist and recorder player Paul Arden-Taylor. Since the 1990s he has increasingly turned to composition. There are concertos for recorder, oboe, flute, clarinet, and violin. These works have since been commercially released. His seventh concerto (for horn) will be released in November 2011. His website will I am sure give further details.

Ball writes pleasingly in a smilingly lyrical but not slack-jawed vein.

The Cello Concerto concerns itself with long breathed melody and carries the redolence of English folksong and pastoral contentment. Dark clouds may slip by but only in the distance. It's all most vivaciously done but with no trauma or angst - only deliquescent beauty. There are some moments of grit as in the opening bars of the finale but much of this put me in mind of the most engaging aspects of Howard Blake and on occasions of John Barry. There’s also a second cello concerto dedicated to Hauser – come the day soon.

After some 38 minutes of an ambitious cello concerto Ball and Hauser offer us eight short morsels with which to wind down and relax. The Song Without Words is sentimental and unassertive. The music of Roundelay is nicely rounded rather in the piquant Capriol manner of Peter Warlock's antique miniatures. Close of the Day looks to the sunset innocence of Dvorák. Scarborough Fair starts in the stratospherics of the cello's range - fragile beauty indeed. These are all unassuming pieces designed to please and executed with great skill. There 's real abrasive life in the Star of the County Down - a winning little concert-pleaser if ever there was one. Brigg Fair is followed by the highland skirl of Bonnie Dundee/The Water is Wide. After this the sensitively alert Yoko Misumi leaves the studio with Hauser playing the winding and self-absorbed solo written for him by Ball, For Stjepan.

Very soon - November 2011 - Musical Concepts will issue an eagerly anticipated CD of Ball's concertos for oboe and for horn.

The lineage of this writing goes back to Howells without his harmonic complexity and Holst without his mysticism. Music designed to please then - mission accomplished and a delight. It deserves wide-ranging success. Do not let it pass you by.

Rob Barnett

Other reviews
Clarinet & flute concertos: Quantum QM7040
Recorder & oboe concertos: Pavane ADW7404
Violin concerto: Omnibus Classics CC5003

Music designed to please then - mission accomplished. It deserves wide-ranging success.