Dedication – Rhapsody in E flat; The Kelpie of Corrievreckan; Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet and String Trio; Prelude for Bass Clarinet; Clarinet Sonata
Gareth Hulse (oboe), Peter Cigleris (clarinet), Duncan Honeybourne (piano); Tippett Quartet
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0641 67:37 mins
The rehabilitation of Ruth Gipps’s music is gathering momentum in her centenary year. The clarinet loomed large in her life. Herself an oboist, she married the clarinettist Robert Baker, whom she met while studying at the Royal College of Music, and many of these works were written for him. The Quintet for Clarinet, Oboe and String Trio might ideally have found the couple performing side by side, but was written while he was away, serving in World War II.
Gipps’s music is certainly rich in character: the opening Rhapsody and The Kelpie of Corrievreckan, an atmospheric narrative based on a Charles Mackay legend, both make a fresh and punchy impression. Cigleris, an indefatigable champion of British clarinet music, proves an attentive, big-hearted performer whose devotion to this repertoire is paying ample dividends. He gives a velvety account of the Prelude for Bass Clarinet, and plays the Clarinet Sonata of 1957 in a luminous account with pianist Duncan Honeybourne.
The one quibble is with the Quintet; it may be the nature of the piece, but although the movements are marked with contrasting indications (Allegro, Adagio, Energico) it sometimes falls into that slightly English-musicy trap of unfolding at moderate pace, moderate dynamics and moderate colours most of the way through. The performance, by members of the Tippett Quartet plus Cigleris and Gareth Hulse, is beautifully smooth and conversational, but perhaps leaves any appetite for greater light and shade a bit unsatisfied. Recorded sound is warm and full.