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English Fantasy
William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1962) [12:26]
John CARMICHAEL (b.1930)
Fêtes Champêtres
[13:38]
Clive JENKINS (b.1938)
Five Pieces for Clarinet and Piano (2003) [12:42]
John CARMICHAEL (b.1930)
Aria and Finale [15:42]
Cecil ARMSTRONG GIBBS (1889-1960)
Three Pieces for Clarinet and Piano (1950s) [9:01]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Fantasy-Sonata (1943) [14:12]
Peter Cigleris (clarinet); Antony Gray (piano)
rec. RCM Studio, London, 18-10 August 2010. DDD
CALA CACD77015 [76:41]


It is my misfortune not to have heard Peter Cigleris until this disc arrived. He has Devon connections and gave his first professional recital at the age 14 in Plymouth with pianist-composer Clive Jenkins. They still tour Devon and Cornwall. Jenkins has written a clarinet concerto for Cigleris and this was premièred in 2000 with the Southwest Sinfonia in Plymouth's Guildhall.
 
Peter’s performing repertoire includes the concertos by Finzi, Wilson, Arnold (No.2) and Nielsen. His professors at the Birmingham Conservatoire in the late 1990s included Colin Parr and it was there that he won the John Ireland Chamber Music award with a performance of the Ireland Fantasy Sonata. His playing of the Arnold Second Concerto was with the Warwickshire Symphony under Guy Woolfenden as part of Arnold’s 80th birthday celebrations. Janet Hilton and Richard Hosford were numbered among his teachers at the Royal College of Music. He has also drawn on teaching from Andrew Marriner and Antony Pay and has participated in master-classes with Michael Collins. This, by the way, is not one of those recordings dogged by key mechanism clitter-clatter. Wonderful if uncanny when mechanical essentials can be suppressed to allow the music to speak without distraction.
 
Rather than Clive Jenkins we hear the Australian-born pianist Antony Gray with Cigleris. Gray’s three-CD collection of 20th century Bach transcriptions has just been issued by ABC Classics. He has already recorded extensively with an adventurous tilt to his hat: Williamson, Goossens and Carmichael. He is also one of the pianists on CD16 of the Chandos Grainger Edition

On this disc there is some re-ploughing of the familiar and almost-familiar in the shape of the Alwyn and Ireland. There remains enough unusual in this topmost filled disc to get the appreciative juices going. It’s by no means all British pastoral either, although that voice is certainly present in Australian John Carmichael’s Fêtes Champêtres. Carmichael’s Aria and Finale is at first a cloud-hung contrast to the Fêtes although it soon finds its lyrical feet. The Finale is typically grateful and full of exultant song. These are two conjoined movements in search of a first movement - and with all the marks of a Clarinet Concerto in the making. We shall see.
 
Carmichael has had quite considerable attention in these pages and is a name well worth following if you enjoy gifted lyrical music: Concierto Folklórico, Trumpet Concerto on ASV and Clarinet Concerto on Dutton; not to mention an ABC disc of his chamber music including the Piano Quartet Sea Changes and on the same label Antony Gray’s survey of the piano music. 

The Alwyn - a Thea King commission - is given the strongest performance I know of, although I have not heard Robert Plane on Naxos. Cigleris gives the most defiantly possessed and truculent skirl to the opening and closing episodes of this dark little sonata. It’s good to have the three Armstrong Gibbs pieces, written for Jack Brymer. The Shadow March is nocturnal yet sly and playful. The Air has English pastoral inclinations fully indulged. Back to cheery play and exultation in virtuosity in the final Caprice. It’s all very much in the English mainstream and delightful. The wartime Ireland sonata, written for Jack Thurston, has been much recorded. Cigleris puts his own sincere stamp on it and totally avoids a certain blandness which the sonata can invite. He makes hay with the superbly melodic core of this pensive rather than dramatic work (7:12). This is the poetic, elusive Ireland of Forgotten Rite rather than the Ireland of Mai-Dun, Epic March and These Things Shall Be

I have my fingers crossed for an English concerto disc from Cigleris. I trust that this will give us the privilege of hearing the concertos by Clive Jenkins, Finzi, Wilson and Arnold.
 
The liner-note contributions are variously by Andrew Knowles, William Alwyn, Clive Jenkins, John Carmichael and Philip R Buttall alongside the Armstrong Gibbs notes from Cigleris.
 
This is a fresh and impressively pleasing collection which mixes the usual and the unusual to good effect with more of the latter than the former.
 
Rob Barnett 

Review index: Alwyn sonata ~~ Gibbs Three pieces