Three long-overlooked British clarinet concertos here receive their first-ever recordings, “reawakened” by Robert Plane, principal clarinet of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
For unspecified reasons, Richard H. Walthew (1872-1951) left his Concerto for Clarinet (1902) in manuscript, unorchestrated until recently completed by Alfie Pugh. Its opening movement resembles Richard Strauss’ “Mozartian” style; the Andante and Vivace partake, respectively, of Edwardian nobility and jollity. It’s a charming, cheerful work, well worth a listen.
Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) composed her Clarinet Concerto in G Minor, Op.9 in 1940, the year she began studying with Ralph Vaughan Williams. His influence pervades throughout: in the first movement, the clarinet seemingly extemporizes over an outdoorsy walking bass; the bucolic mood is sustained in the pastoral slow movement and the folk-dancy finale. It’s another attractive audience-pleaser.
What should have been recognized by now as a major contribution to the clarinet repertoire is the CD’s longest, most colourfully scored, most modern-sounding work – the 28-minute Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op.7 (1950) by Iain Hamilton (1922-2000). Propulsive, irregular, even jazzy rhythms contrast with long-lined, darkly melancholic lyricism, all calling for extreme virtuosity from the soloist, amply provided by Plane.
Another first recording ends the CD – Graham Parlett’s arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra of the warmly lyrical Fantasy Sonata (1943), originally for clarinet and piano, by John Ireland (1879-1962), a minor master deserving much greater exposure in North America.
Four fine works, exuberantly performed, making one truly pleasurable CD.