Vaughan Williams, Bliss, Ireland, Bax & Stanford

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bax & Stanford,Bliss,Ireland,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: ASV
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Pastoral Ð British Clarinet Music
WORKS: Six Studies in English Folksong; Three Vocalises; Two Nursery Rhymes; Pastoral
PERFORMER: Emma Johnson (clarinet), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Judith Howarth (soprano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 891 DDD
It is now ten years since Emma Johnson swept to fame by winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Since then her career has developed apace, and she is now a major international soloist with a distinguished list of recordings to her credit.

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What is especially pleasing about this recital disc is the imaginative choice of repertoire, although the title ‘Pastoral’ gives little indication of the range of music to be discovered here. For instance, the extraordinary Vocalises for soprano and clarinet, which Vaughan Williams wrote in the last year of his life, are miniatures which achieve a rare and visionary quality, thanks to this excellent combination of performers.

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The sonatas by Ireland, Bax and Stanford are of course more substantial and demand a larger-scale view of phrasing and structure. They gain in stature from these performances, which convey a true understanding of the music’s respective personalities and plead an eloquent case for its wider currency. Johnson and Martineau, who work regularly together, respond instinctively to one another in these works. The recording is natural and beautifully balanced, and the disc is well documented, an important consideration since much of this fine music is little known. Terry Barfoot