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Christopher BALL (b.1936)
Cor Anglais Concerto; Clarinet Quintet; Recorder Concerto 'The Piper of Dreams'; Scenes from a Comedy for Wind Quintet; Caprice on a Baroque Theme for solo recorder
Paul Arden-Taylor (cor anglais) Emerald Concert Orchestra/Christopher Ball (Cor Anglais Concerto)
Leslie Craven (clarinet), Andre Swanepoel and Lowri Porter (violins), David Adams (viola) and William Schofield (cello) (Clarinet Quintet)
Paul Arden-Taylor (recorder), Adderbury Ensemble/Christopher Ball (Recorder Concerto)
Adrian Brett (flute/piccolo), Paul Arden-Taylor (oboe), Leslie Craven (clarinet), Peter Harrison (bassoon) and Anthony Gladstone (horn) (Scenes from a Comedy)
Paul Arden-Taylor (recorder) (Caprice)
details not supplied
MUSICAL CONCEPTS MC151 [77:52]

While Musical Concepts are not alone in acting as advocate for the melody-affluent music of Christopher Ball they are certainly the most generous (MC142 and MC143). Their other two discs are well worth running to ground if you hanker after indefatigable English pastoral lyricism. Ball is a class act in this genre and no doubt there will be much more to come.
 
The Cor Anglais Concerto is quite light and approachable. There are three movements which together establish the case for a cleanly sung solo and lyrically stabbing strings. Amongst Ball's spiritual kindred - Finzi, Howells - there's a touch of serene Binge in the mix. After a plangent central movement we end with more joyous music in the manner of Finzi's Bagatelles and RVW folksongs for cello and piano.
 
The Clarinet Quintet is accorded a warm recording and as a work encompasses flighty and silkily smooth melody, bubbling lyricism and gutsily mellifluous dancing. Its mood recalls Geoffrey Bush's Summer Serenade.
 
The Recorder Concerto is an old friend making a welcome and singing return. The middle movement is particularly magical. Listen out for the sound of John Barry and Howard Blake on their good days. Again there's a Binge-like antiquity to this music; even a touch of Warlock's Capriol.
 
The Scenes from a Comedy would make a meet companion to the lighter brass ensemble music of Malcolm Arnold's and Joseph Horowitz. It's six witty movements along the way take in a very sentimental mood ( la Dr Zhivago) and some fruity Rossinian japes. This generously timed disc finishes with a bubbly solo Caprice on a Baroque Theme.
 
If you would like to explore yet further beyond the other two desirable Musical Concepts collections then don't miss the collections on Quantum and Pavane but it will involve some duplication.
 
Heart-lifting music in performances and recordings to match.
 
Rob Barnett