Clarke, Woolfenden, Ellerby, Turnbull & Arnold

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Clarke,Ellerby,Turnbull & Arnold,Woolfenden
LABELS: Polyphonic
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Linda Merrick
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Linda Merrick (clarinet); Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/James Gourlay, Guy Woolfenden
CATALOGUE NO: QPRM 137D
Dedications comprises four concertos for clarinet all written between the mid-Seventies and Eighties for Janet Hilton. The works by Hoddinott and McCabe seem typical of British music from this period, appearing rather directionless and lacking in personality, with the result that it comes across as worthy rather than inspired. The same is certainly not true of the Concerto by Edward Harper, who provides by far the most vivid and dramatic work. His approach to scoring is particularly imaginative as he utilises a wonderful range of orchestral colour emphasising texture in favour of gratuitous virtuosity. Elizabeth Maconchy’s Concertino, the lightest and shortest of the four, is not without charm. In all these works, Janet Hilton plays with a clear technical command and full, warm sound, but somehow fails to bring the music fully to life.

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Linda Merrick’s collection is the result of her admirable intention to commission new compositions and arrangements to enhance the repertoire of music for clarinet and wind band. The majority of the music was composed around the Millennium, though being aimed at student and amateur players is, in stylistic terms, somewhat anachronistic. The majority of the programme tends overwhelmingly towards fast, strident material in the high register of the clarinet, a sound which can pall quite quickly, especially when the soloist is set so clearly in relief. The most attractive piece in every respect is Martin Ellerby’s Clarinet Concerto, unashamedly influenced by American composers such as Adams, Williams and Sondheim, which provides the soloist with a chance for some reflective moments in addition to the obligatory pyrotechnical display. Tim Payne