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Timothy SALTER (b. 1942)
Piano Quintet (1990) [23:33]
Elegy (2007, 2014) [6:20]
Clarinet Quintet (2009) [18:22]
Muse Piano Quintet
The Usk Ensemble
rec. Oxford, 2012/15
USK ARCHIVE 1235CD [48:17]

Usk is Timothy Salter’s own label. Over the years it has provided a safe and inspiring anchorage for his own and other composers’ works. Earlier Usk discs - usually with shortish running times - have advocated Salter’s chamber music and vocal works. The present CD continues the distinctive mission for music that often confides in whispers.

The five-movement Piano Quintet chimes in like a voice from ultima thule. The music buzzes and flits, and charts a moth-like mercurial progress. Its oscillating and flickering intimacy is caught in a dewy and shimmering web. Three substantial movements are divided by two Interludes, the second of which has a jazzy cortex. There is no primacy for any of the instruments. At one level it communicates like a concerto for an orchestra of five.

The short single-movement Elegy is a work in which the unhurried lead is taken by the clarinet. This instrument has primacy here and sings from the clarinet’s lyrical and melancholy heartland. It is a more cantabile piece than the Piano Quintet and much the same applies to the Clarinet Quintet. This balances longer lines than those found in the Piano Quintet with the sort of dankly musing rhapsodic reflection that can be heard in Warlock’s The Curlew. The third movement (‘Peaceful’) is sheer magic, even if the initial capering of the finale (‘With insistent movement’) jars.

The playing is deeply impressive and feels utterly committed. The Muse Piano Quintet comprises Yulia Kupriyanova (piano), Ilya Movchan, Olivia Scheepers, Ilona Bondar, Jordan Gregoris. The Usk Ensemble who play the Elegy and the Clarinet Quintet is made up of Rozenn Le Trionnaire (clarinet), Francesca Barritt, Sophie Mather, Jessica Beeston and Rebecca Hepplewhite. The recorded sound complements Salter’s urgent delicacy.

Timothy Salter wrote the straight-talking and not over-elaborated liner-notes for this disc. His piano teachers numbered York Bowen and Lamar Crowson both of whom recorded in the early 1960s for Lyrita. Salter has been a teacher of composition and performance practice at the Royal College of Music and is director of The Ionian Singers. In 1970 he co-wrote a study of Thomas Campion. I hope that one day soon we will get to hear this composer’s orchestral works. There is a Saxophone Concerto from 2008 and a Symphony and Sinfonietta from ‘distant’ 1981.

Rob Barnett

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