WORKS: Clarinet Concerto No. 1; Clarinet Concerto No. 2; Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano; Fantasy for Clarinet; Three Shanties; Divertimento for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet
PERFORMER: Emma Johnson (clarinet), Jaime Martin (flute), Jonathan Kelly (oboe), Claire Briggs (horn), Susanna Cohen (bassoon), Malcolm Martineau (piano)ECO/Ivor Bolton
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 922 DDD
Malcolm Arnold has composed nearly twenty concertos, and those for clarinet are featured on this well-documented disc, along with his other music for the instrument, including the Shanties for wind quintet. These witty pieces and the less celebrated Divertimento and Sonatina receive sympathetic performances, which reveal the composer’s many subtleties in the chamber music idiom.
The Fantasy for solo clarinet (1966) was composed as a competition piece, but it has stood the test of time, and makes an excellent showpiece for any player seeking to display articulation, phrasing and breath-control, skills which Emma Johnson clearly has in abundance.
Arnold wrote his two clarinet concertos for great players, Frederick Thurston and Benny Goodman, and here they are performed by a clarinettist who is their true heir. Johnson rises to the challenge of these virtuoso pieces, whose emotional and technical range is extraordinarily wide. She is sensitively accompanied by Ivor Bolton and the English Chamber Orchestra, while the recording gives the music an excellent focus, with clarity and full tone as required. Hearing this disc makes one understand why Malcolm Arnold believes that ‘to be asked by a performer whose accomplishment one admires is the greatest incentive to write music.’ Terry Barfoot