Skempton: Ben Somewhen; Suite from Delicate; Clarinet Quintet; Rise up, my Love; The Voice of the Spirits etc

COMPOSERS: Skempton
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Ben Somewhen
WORKS: Ben Somewhen; Suite from Delicate; Clarinet Quintet; Rise up, my Love; The Voice of the Spirits etc

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PERFORMER: Exaudi; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/James Weeks

CATALOGUE NO: D 135
Howard Skempton’s music sounds deceptively easy. Openness to simplicity is one of the hardest qualities to nurture in music, and it is the heart and soul of Skempton’s creativity. Allied to this is his child-like ability to find wonder in the familiar. Listening to his engagingly optimistic pieces is like suddenly noticing an exquisite detail in a building previously passed everyday without a second glance.

Performing Skempton brings to mind Schnabel’s maxim about Mozart: ‘too easy for children, too difficult for adults’. This welcome collection of choral and chamber music generally manages to tread the fine line between over-complicating matters and sounding facile. Exaudi is typically assured under the direction of James Weeks, masterfully pacing The Voice of the Spirits across its broad span. BCMG captures both the innate charm of the Clarinet Quintet and the diverse moods of the Chamber Concerto. The going is tougher in the relatively lengthy Ben Somewhen, a concertante work for double bass and ensemble inspired by the pictures of Ben Hartley, whose delightful drawings adorn the CD booklet.

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Christopher Dingle