Musgrave: Chamber Music for Clarinet, Vol. 2: Serenade; Narcissus; Impromptus No. 1, Impromptu No. 2; Wind Quintet; Four Portraits

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COMPOSERS: Musgrave
LABELS: Clarinet Classics
WORKS: Chamber Music for Clarinet, Vol. 2: Serenade; Narcissus; Impromptus No. 1, Impromptu No. 2; Wind Quintet; Four Portraits
PERFORMER: Victoria Soames Samek (clarinet), David Le Page (viola), Matthew Sharp (cello), Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Rachel Masters (harp)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 0039
Neither the subtitle (‘Chamber music for clarinet by Thea Musgrave, Volume 2’) nor the unsexed black-and-white Blake of the booklet design will have queues forming round the block, but Musgrave’s Narcissus would be worth queuing for. It makes poetic and outstandingly imaginative use of a tape-delay system (the clarinet is Narcissus himself, the taped ‘echo’ his reflection), with such subtle treatment of strong melodic ideas that it absorbs the attention for every one of its 18 minutes. Narcissus’s rapt wonder on recognising his double, their joyous dance together and his growing alarm as the reflection always mimics him but never responds are vividly drawn. Musgrave excels at musical drama, in her concert pieces as well as her operas (sadly little heard in Britain since her move to America), and most of the rest of this collection is chamber-music-as-drama. The Wind Quintet is a miniature opera about the expressive lyrical flute, the querulously anxious oboe, the abrupt and bossy horn, and so on, and the two Impromptus are more relaxed explorations of the same sort of idea. There are lesser, earlier things as well, but all are played with affection as well as great skill. Michael Oliver

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