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Robert Plane absolutely on fire


Classical Explorer, Colin Clarke

The title of this disc is lovely and perfectly apt: a reawakening of music that really deserves currency. There is a rich vein of gems to be mined in the catalogue of English music, and in fact Robert Plane has [previously] provided one of the finest recordings of one of the most polished of those gems: an award-winning performance of Gerald Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto on Naxos with the Northern Sinfonia and Howard Griffiths.

[Plane’s] new Champs Hill disc, Reawakened, featuring music by Iain Hamilton, Richard H. Walthew, Ruth Gipps and John Ireland, is a corker.

Iain Hamilton is the least known of the composers on today’s clarinet disc, and yet his Clarinet Concerto, Op. 7, is powerful and direct … Hamilton’s Clarinet Concerto won the coveted Royal Philharmonic Society Award; it was premiered in April 1952 … The Concerto is one of those pieces that grows on you with repeated listenings – at least, it did on me! Gritty, even gnarly at times, it also contains moments of wonderful lyricism. One can definitely hear elements of Bartók to the score, and Hamilton’s harmonies are incredibly expressive, particularly in the central Adagio sereno …

The finale is scampering and virtuoso, Robert Plane absolutely on fire.

Another composer who might need a bit of introduction is Richard H, Walthew (1872-1951), whose 1902 Clarinet Concerto is heard here in a sparkling, transparent orchestration by Alfie Pugh … This is deliciously light music: not without cause does Jaffé refer to the model of Mendelssohn in this work, both structurally and in spirit. There’s also a more pronounced Edwardian feel to the music …

The contribution of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins to the Reawakened disc is superb throughout, but perhaps the delicacy of the woodwind contributions to the central Andante is most delicious.

Returning to the present release, Ruth Gipps’ Clarinet Concerto, Op. 9 (1940) received its first ever broadcast on on September 22 this year on Radio 3 … To hear the sophistication of the Clarinet Concerto is a joy indeed. Cordiality seems to be the watchword of the first movement, while a haunting oboe solo – Gipps’ own instrument – opens the central Lento ma con moto (slow but with movement).

John Ireland needs little introduction, I am sure … Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata (1942), heard on Robert Plane’s disc in an orchestration by Graham Parlett, is a work of magnificent introspection…

… Robert Plane floating heavenly melodies over gossamer strings.

Intriguingly, Robert Plane has also recorded the clarinet and piano original of the piece, which gives purchasers of the Champs Hill disc an opportunity for comparison.

A lovely disc that soothes the soul in troubled times.

Lovely presentation from Champs Hill, as well. Not just for clarinet lovers, this one: it provides a glimpse of lesser-known English composers of excellence.

The recording:
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