WORKS: Blazon; Clarinet Concerto; Stepping Out; Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Michael Collins (clarinet), Olivier Charlier (violin); BBC Philharmonic/ Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10105
Edward Gregson, principal of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester since 1996, is probably best known for his music for brass. But the flair for the full orchestra demonstrated in his Contrasts (which I reviewed in June) is confirmed by this disc of works from the Nineties.
Blazon is a single-movement concerto for orchestra, not only colourfully scored but also convincing in its construction. The Clarinet Concerto extends this skill in formal planning to a two-movement structure lasting over half an hour, with an arresting opening, a calmly expansive slow movement, and a simple melodic conclusion that feels organic rather than an afterthought. The Violin Concerto is another imaginatively constructed large-scale piece; though here echoes of past masters, especially Walton, sometimes become disconcertingly obtrusive – just as the shadow of John Adams looms over the string miniature Stepping Out.
The BBC Philharmonic plays with the confidence of a band which knows it is in the hands of an expert composer, and an equally skilled conductor. Michael Collins is a brilliant exponent of a part written for him; Olivier Charlier spins a sweetly expressive line but occasionally lacks bite. The recording sacrifices a consistent front-to-back perspective for exceptional vividness. Anthony Burton