COMPOSERS: Hugh Wood
WORKS: Overture for Piano Trio, Op. 48; Variations for Viola and Piano, Op. 1; Paraphrase on ‘Bird of Paradise’ for Clarinet and Piano etc
PERFORMER: London Archduke Trio; Paul Silverthorne (viola), Roger Heaton (clarinet)
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC 0075
Years ago, Hugh Wood gave a short radio talk called ‘On Being Left Behind’: a witty and quietly impassioned defence of old-fashioned socialist values and rejection of shallow, manic neophilia.
Three decades later his music still embodies the same unfashionable attitudes, and yet what results is as profoundly, enduringly satisfying as the work of any other living British composer.
In all these pieces – ranging over the whole of Wood’s long career – we find craftsmanship raised to the highest level, a love of tradition that liberates rather than restricts the imagination, combined with a tender, yet exquisitely contained poetic sensitivity.
Wood has always been able to face 20th-century modernism full on. His Opus I, the Variations for Viola and Piano, is far from unique amid British music of the late 1950s in seeking an accommodation with Schoenbergian serialism; what is unique is how confidently and personally it achieves its goal.
One might be tempted to compare Wood with Brahms as a modern Classical-Romantic, yet there are times when the passion leaps off the page in very un-Brahmsian ways, such as the ardent neo-tonal opening of the Poem or the expressionist love-song that emerges from the early stages of the Overture.
Expressively, technically and in terms of formal understanding these performances are excellent. Highly recommended. Stephen Johnson