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Portraits of England
Clarence RAYBOULD (1886-1972)
The Wistful Shepherd [4:27]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Clarinet Sonatina, Op.29 (1951) [7:49]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Six Studies in English Folk Song (1926) [9:43]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Fantasy-Sonata (1943) [14:23]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano, Op.23 (pub 1945) [16:01]
Joseph HOROVITZ (b.1926)
Clarinet Sonatina (1981) [13:11]
Jonathan Parkin (clarinet)
Sebastian Stanley (piano)
rec. December 2012, Auditorio Centro Cultural La Marina, Spain
EMEC E-119 [65:16]

It struck me when listening to this disc that it has a very Gervase de Peyer cut about it. In fact it bears a real similarity to the great clarinettist’s Chandos LP recording (now on CD on CHAN8549), with his duo partner, Gwenneth Pryor sharing, as it does, several of the works heard here.

Jonathan Parkin and Sebastian Stanley have even introduced something of a light-hearted novelty – as de Peyer and Pryor did with Alan Richardson’s Roundelay - in the shape of Clarence Raybould’s The Wistful Shepherd. Best known as a conductor, Raybould also wrote music, including an opera called Sumida River, premiered in 1916. This little wistful clarinet piece, couched in the best Light Music traditions, was first recorded by Reginald Kell back in 1942. Malcolm Arnold’s Sonatina, Op.29 offers plenty of opportunities for packing in characterisation, and whilst Parkin lacks the bite and brio of de Peyer – certainly in the more leisurely tempo he adopts for the Andantino – he offers a nice quasi-klezmer phrase or two in the Furioso finale. Not quite Michael Collins’ equal as a tonalist he nevertheless takes a similar view of the work as did Collins and Ian Brown on their Hyperion recording.

Parkin and Stanley do very well by VW’s Six Studies in English Folk-Song, where the phrasing is imbued with sympathy, fine breath control and apposite tonal colour. Stanley’s chording in Spurn Point is especially notable; She borrowed some of her mother’s gold is perhaps the stand-out performance of the six. Ireland’s Fantasy-Sonata has never really lacked for recordings or performances. Fortunately we have a surviving broadcast made by the composer with the dedicatee, Jack Thurston, from 1948 to offer a strong guide to the work’s structure (Dutton CDBP9799 also Symposium 1259). I think the composer would have welcomed the sense of space given to the chordal writing, and would have congratulated the Parkin-Stanley team on its avoidance of excessive speed. A bit of a stickler in these matters, Ireland and Thurston’s performance is actually a minute faster than Parkin and Stanley’s – and it’s unusual in my experience to find the composer out-slowed by contemporary performers.

Finzi’s Bagatelles are in the knapsack of most British clarinettists. This performance is unusually shaped. Parkin is again rather slow – unprecedentedly, so far as I know, in the Romance which is really mini-Mahlerian at this tempo. In fact he doesn’t remind me here at all of de Peyer or indeed Thea King, with Clifford Benson, so much as John Bradbury who recorded the Finzi with James Cryer … but not even Bradbury dared Parkin’s tempo for the Romance.

Finally there’s Joseph Horowitz’s Sonatina of 1981, dedicated to de Peyer and Pryor and first performed and recorded by them. I’d wager Parkin knows that recording as the proportions are very similar. His is a very worthy performance but he can’t replicate de Peyer’s defter, quicksilver playing or the variegated tonal reserves he employs. You ideally need de Peyer’s biting rhythmic vitality combined with his sense of colour to bring out the Latino elements of the central slow movement and the fun of the outer ones.

This Spanish recording was made in the auditorium of the Centro Cultural La Marina and is somewhat dry though not unattractive. The notes are helpful. This is a useful selection of British clarinet works though not quite competitive with the best.

Jonathan Woolf



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