Mahon/JC Bach/Hook

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COMPOSERS: Mahon/JC Bach/Hook
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in F; Duet No. 1 in F; Duet No. 4 in B flat; Concerted Symphony in E flat; Clarinet Concerto in E flat
PERFORMER: Colin Lawson, Michael Harris (clarinet, basset horn) Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
This is a really delightful collection of pieces that may surprise those who doubt the quality of English composers from the Classical period. Although not strictly a clarinet concerto the most intriguing work is Johann Christian Bach’s Concerted Symphony in E flat, a hybrid form in which various combinations of wind instruments are given concertante roles within an otherwise symphonic structure.


The Oxford-born John Mahon was both a leading clarinettist and a composer, and his Concerto No. 2 in F, which dates from around 1775, is among the earliest such works. Although he does not exploit the range and tonal variety of the instrument to the extent that Mozart was to do a few years later, it is nevertheless a fine example of the genre.


The Concerto in E flat by James Hook, written 37 years later, is a far more extrovert piece and contains some quite startling virtuoso passages, brilliantly executed here by Colin Lawson, who makes light of the technical difficulties inherent in wind instruments of this period. Both Lawson and Michael Harris play superbly throughout, blending well together and displaying immaculate intonation. Praise is due also to Peter Holman and the Parley of Instruments, who perform with great vitality. Tim Payne