Robert Plane has done more than his share of reawakening for the clarinet repertoire, and this latest album features three British concertos which are more than deserving reappraisal. That by Iain Hamilton (1950) was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society prize and helped establish his reputation. Its amalgam of Bartókian rhythmic incisiveness with a melodic poise redolent of Walton sounds very much of its time, but the technical command of its writing for soloist and orchestra compels admiration, as does its motivic resourcefulness. More modest in scope, the Concerto (1940) by Ruth Gipps is no less assured in content – hence the initial Allegro moderato’s deceptively rhapsodic unfolding or the Lento ma con moto’s affecting pathos, though these could have been better served than by the final Vivace’s short-windedness and unvaried jig-trot motion.
Between these pieces, Richard Walthew’s Concerto (1902) is a reminder that this authority on chamber music of the Classical and Romantic eras was, in his earlier years, a composer of promise. Its three movements linked in the style of Mendelssohn, it could well pass as a concerto by the teenage Strauss in an engaging liveliness and melodic charm recalling Elgar, even German. The piano score has been idiomatically orchestrated by Alfie Pugh and ought to find favour, while Graham Parlett’s arrangement of John Ireland’s Fantasy-Sonata (1943) for strings enables the wider dissemination of the most finely realised among its composer’s later works. Its ruminative expression is here accorded subtler shades, while those vigorous outer sections framing the whole exude a verve more appealing for being so uncharacteristic.
All four pieces could not have more sympathetic advocacy than by Plane, whose virtuosity is keenly abetted by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins.
With vivid and realistic sound, and informative notes from Daniel Jaffé, this is an enjoyable and worthwhile release.