Holbrooke: Clarinet Quintet; Variations for quintet; Eilean Shona (Clarinet Quintet alternative finale) etc

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COMPOSERS: Holbrooke
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Clarinet Quintet; Variations for quintet; Eilean Shona (Clarinet Quintet alternative finale) etc
PERFORMER: Robert Plane (clarinet), Lucy Gould, Mia Cooper (violin), Scott Dickinson, David Adams (viola), Alice Neary (cello), Sophia Rahman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 777 731-2

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Record companies, in their tireless search for British late-Romantic composers ripe for revival, have occasionally hit on the prolific but uneven Josef Holbrooke. The German label CPO, following its release of a disc of symphonic poems in 2009, now issues this collection of chamber music involving clarinet.

The programme includes six movements which Holbrooke juggled at different times between 1903 and the 1950s to make up two quintets for clarinet and strings, with alternative options. The complete No. 2 as presented here consists of the best of these: a dramatic first movement with some inventive development and recapitulation, a lyrical interlude, and a jaunty finale incorporating subtle references back to the first movement.

The quintet movements are complemented by more impressionistic pieces with piano: two duos inspired by mythology, and a pale, subdued nocturne for clarinet, viola and piano suggested by a poem of Edgar Allan Poe. Throughout the disc, Robert Plane proves a sensitive and engaging advocate for the music, and he’s well supported by a team of seasoned chamber musicians and an intimate recording.

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Anthony Burton