COMPOSERS: Arnold; Cooke; Gregson; Benjamin; Horovitz
ALBUM TITLE: British Clarinet Sonatas, Vol. 2
WORKS: British Clarinet Sonatas
PERFORMER: Michael Collins (clarinet), Michael McHale (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN10758
An issue for serious anoraks and/or Michael Collins’s fellow-clarinettists only? Like its predecessor in the series, it’s truly more interesting than that – on the whole. Arnold Cooke’s Hindemith-following Sonata, though mellifluously and economically crafted, operates at an octane-level low enough to exasperate. And if you’re allergic to the English music scene’s time-honoured brand of garrulous quirkiness, you won’t get on too well with Joseph Horovitz’s Sonatina either.
The strongest music on the programme turns out to be the first, where Collins’s huge reserves of gorgeous-toned musicianship are rewarded in a Sonatina of a very different kind: Malcolm Arnold’s sharp-focus, irreverently brilliant three-movement tour de force was premiered in 1951 by a young clarinettist called Colin Davis. Edward Gregson’s five Tributes, each one inscribed to a different composer and player, together cover an ingenious range of styles and moods: the idea risks glibness but avoids it, as in ‘To Olivier Messiaen’, a finely sustained take on the cello-and- piano movement of Quartet for the End of Time. Arthur Benjamin’s Le tombeau de Ravel, too, is pastiche of a superior kind, engaging with the example of Valses nobles et sentimentales in a way that matches it for skill and sophistication.
As in Vol. 1 of the series, Collins’s lustrous expertise is fully in evidence, as is Michael McHale’s top-flight accompanying.