Maxwell Davies, Goehr, Birtwistle

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Birtwistle,Goehr,Maxwell Davies
LABELS: Clarinet Classics
WORKS: Hymnos; Paraphrase; Linoi; Oockooing Bird
PERFORMER: Roger Heaton (clarinet), Stephen Pruslin (piano); Kreutzer String Quartet
This is a well-thought-out CD, with tracks of clarinet, piano, and clarinet with piano, leading to the final quintet. And who says that the Sixties avant-garde was all dry and cerebral? Hymnos burns rubber like a vintage Harley Davidson, and doesn’t let up for its exhilarating 12 minutes. Two other aspects of Maxwell Davies are on view here: the parody technique in Sub tuam protectionem, where Dunstaple’s original is covered with a commentary which eventually silences it; and the tonal, folk-like sound of Stevie’s Ferry to Hoy, one of the composer’s many works for children. The Birtwistle works also demonstrate various facets of the composer’s personality. Oockooing Bird, from his teens, is proof positive that his roots lie in English pastoral. It’s a simple, quiet piece for solo piano which thickens in texture only towards the end. Verses typically deals with recurring, changing structures; and Linoi creates a sort of imaginary folk music based around the Orpheus myth. The Clarinet Quintet is structured in short, linked sections, but this scaffolding can be completely forgotten in the experience of listening to a sure-footed composer at the height of his creative powers. Roger Heaton yields nothing in virtuosity to Alan Hacker (the original clarinettist in these works), though his tone is softer-edged; and Stephen Pruslin has a long history in this repertoire, stretching right back to the Pierrot Players in the late Sixties. A stunning disc. Martin Cotton