Winds of Change – Chamber Works for Horn
Ben Goldscheider (horn), Mary Bevan (soprano), Huw Watkins (piano); London Chamber Orchestra/Hannah von Wiehler
Three Worlds TWR0012 76:49 mins
Ruth Gipps’s discography continues to expand, and the latest album, entitled Winds of Change, blows a chronological path through the conservative but feisty British composer’s chamber music featuring wind instruments – especially the horn, the instrument played by her son, Lance Baker.
The earliest is The Three Billy Goats Gruff of 1943, a pungent setting of the Norwegian folktale recorded with the spirited narrator (Ruth Rosales) rather dominating the sound balance. The last is a typically expressive and fibrous sonata for alto trombone or horn from 1995, one of many works here featuring the golden-toned horn of Ben Goldscheider, the best champion yet of her quicksilver Horn Concerto. Some other pieces are parlour music, congenial trifles written for friends and family, though the Octet and Sinfonietta, from the 1980s, aim for greater breadth and substance.
Clotted textures are always a risk if eight wind soloists are burbling together, and Gipps’s habit of weaving tapestries of long-legged melodies doesn’t increase clarity in her otherwise mellifluous Octet. The air’s much clearer with the wider colour palette of the Sinfonietta for ten wind players (plus an imaginatively deployed tam-tam), though a degree of tedium enters with its Scherzo’s obsessive chewing of short motifs. Another ten wind players are needed for the 1958 Seascape, though it sounds more like a pastoral landscape than a buffeting in the briny. If not essential listening, there are modest pleasures in all this skilfully and tightly written music, and plenty of virtuosity among the players.