ALBUM TITLE: Musgrave
WORKS: Concerto for Orchestra; Clarinet Concerto; Horn Concerto; Monologue; Excursions
PERFORMER: Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), Barry Tuckwell (horn), Thea Musgrave, Malcolm Williamson (piano); Scottish National Orchestra/Alexander Gibson; London SO/Norman Del Mar; Scottish National Orchestra/Thea Musgrave
CATALOGUE NO: SRCD.253
Three resounding cheers for the appearance on CD at last of the three Thea Musgrave concertos. In these single-movement works of the late 1960s and early ’70s, the Scottish-born composer made effective use both of her flexible mixture of rhythmic and free-time music and
of her distinctive vein of instrumental drama: in the Concerto for Orchestra with the principal clarinettist standing up to lead a revolt against the conductor’s beat; in the Clarinet Concerto with the soloist moving round the platform to link up with different orchestral sections; in the Horn Concerto with the soloist echoed by his colleagues all around the orchestra and beyond. And these are no gimmicks, but integral to the impact of some of the most convincing and thrilling orchestral pieces that have been written anywhere in the last few decades.
The early 1970s performances have all the excitement of the new. Alexander Gibson and the Scottish National Orchestra deliver the Concerto for Orchestra with great panache; Musgrave herself takes over to support the poetic and authoritative Barry Tuckwell in the Horn Concerto. In the Clarinet Concerto, Gervase de Peyer and Norman Del Mar set some daringly fast tempos for the brilliant London Symphony Orchestra, bringing out the work’s contrasts of mood more than Victoria Soames Samek with the composer on Clarinet Classics. The recordings are vivid and well remastered, and the notes helpful. As a double bonus, there’s the composer playing the lucid piano Monologue, and, with Malcolm Williamson, the entertaining teaching duets Excursions. But the prime attraction is undoubtedly those three terrific concertos. Anthony Burton