British Serenade
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Serenade for Guitar and Strings Op.50 [5:15]
Five Pieces for Violin and Strings Op.84a (arr. Philip Lane) [9:09]
Concertino for Clarinet and Strings Op.29a (arr. Roger Steptoe) [8:38]
Paul LEWIS (b.1943)
On Pevensey Levels [5:45]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Salut d’Amour Op. 12 (arr. Levine Andrade) [2:40]
Paul CARR (b.1961)
Viola Air [10:14]
Don SHEARMAN (b.1932)
Winter Sunshine [4:13]
Clive JENKINS (b.1938)
Romance for Viola and Strings [4:52]
Rhapsody for Harmonica [6:24]
Cologne [5:11]
Michael Butten (guitar: Arnold)
Peter Cigleris (clarinet: Arnold, Sherman)
Richard Waters (viola: Carr, Jenkins)
Chris Shrimpton (harmonica: Lewis, Jenkins)
Michael Mace (cello: Elgar)
Chamber Ensemble of London/Peter Fisher (violin: Arnold)
rec. Coombehurst Studio, Kingston University, 16 and 7 May, 6 December 2015
World premiere recordings except Arnold Serenade

This collection of solos accompanied by a string orchestra is the first collaboration between Heritage and the Chamber Ensemble of London. It has been issued to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Sir Malcolm Arnold and it features nine world premiere recordings.

The entire collection showcases some beautiful, flowing music where melody rules supreme. There’s nothing pretentious or taxing here but you can just wallow in the romantic tunes and, in the case of Malcolm Arnold, smile at the capricious fun and frolics that he creates.

First of all, let’s concentrate on Malcolm Arnold. The CD opens with his Serenade, an attractive mini concerto in five short but distinct sections. It is played with authority by Michael Butten. The Concertino for Clarinet, played with great verve by Peter Cigleris, follows a number of slow, romantic pieces included on the disc and as such it cleanses the palette and changes the mood from one of lush romanticism to one of Arnold playfulness. It is so typical of Arnold and the music could not be mistaken for that of any other composer. The Five Pieces for Violin bring the CD to a close and in many ways this is the most interesting work in the collection. Written for Menuhin, the composer captures a remarkable range of styles and influences over a mere 9-minute time span. Peter Fisher plays the work with finesse and care.

The other pieces, by and large, take us into somewhat unknown territory but there are some real gems to be heard. The Jenkins Romance is unashamedly romantic and it’s good to hear the golden sound of the viola getting some limelight for once. The soloist, Richard Waters, also features in Viola Air, a bitter-sweet love song by Paul Carr. This is a beautiful tear jerker of a piece. Salut d’Amour is a soupy, over-the-top cello arrangement of Elgar’s sugary concoction but what a great tune it is, played with passion by Michael Mace. Talking of Elgar, Winter Sunshine by Don Shearman has a distinct Elgarian grace about it and this legato clarinet solo is played with a simple charm and elegance by Peter Cigleris.

The three remaining works feature Chris Shrimpton on harmonica. There’s something remarkably evocative about the harmonica and it is well suited to the musical landscape, On Pevensey Levels, by Paul Lewis. Admittedly a solo violin would have been a suitable alternative but the work itself is pure nature music and will be enjoyed by those who admire Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad, by way of an example. Rhapsody and Cologne, both by Jenkins, give Chris Shrimton further opportunities to demonstrate his expertise. Rhapsody has a really catchy tune but it does illustrate one of the shortcomings of the instrument – its inability to produce a true legato.

This is a valuable collection of rarities that will have an appeal to fans of Malcolm Arnold and lovers of British light music. Soloists and orchestra are in fine form and the recording is rich and easy on the ear. Overall, this is a most unusual and pleasant experience.

John Whitmore
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