Musgrave: Chamber Music for Clarinet, Vol. 1: Pierrot; Canta, Canta!; Ring Out Wild Bells; Threnody; Chamber Concerto No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Musgrave
LABELS: Clarinet Classics
WORKS: Chamber Music for Clarinet, Vol. 1: Pierrot; Canta, Canta!; Ring Out Wild Bells; Threnody; Chamber Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Victoria Soames Samek (clarinet, bass clarinet), Gabrielle Byam-Grounds (flute), David Le Page (violin, viola), Matthew Sharp (cello), Mark Troop (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 0038
For a decade now the Clarinet Classics label has been raising the profile of its subject, and enthusiasts will be glad to know from the photos accompanying this disc that the recording sessions look like joyous affairs, with none of the internal dramas, for example, that are predicated in the music of the distinguished Scottish composer Thea Musgrave.

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Seventy-four this year, she is also the focus of two other collections in the series. On the evidence of this one, she writes with fluent understanding of the instrument and its needs, as in Pierrot, for example, of 1985, where the clarinet takes the role of Columbine alongside the piano as Harlequin and violin as hero. The Ivesian Chamber Concerto of 1966 also boasts its own abstract dramatis personae, and is a fine example of the kind of rhythmically free ensemble-writing for which she is renowned. Bell-like sounds are the substance of the millennial quartet Ring Out Wild Bells, while the condition of loss haunts Threnody in the form of the Dies irae. Tough yet never offputting, her style adopts a softer aspect in Canta, Canta!, where echoes of a song written in the composer’s student years lend their rounded contours to her more typically angular lines.

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Nicholas Williams