COMPOSERS: Arr. Chernaik,Arr. Chernaik.,Bud Powell,Gershwin,Parker
WORKS: Clarinet Concerto; Betjeman’s London; Oscar Wilde: Symphony in Yellow; A Foggy Day; I’ll Keep Loving You
PERFORMER: Ian Herbert (clarinet), Gerard Benson, Cicely Herbert (reader)Apollo CO/David Chernaik
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84396
Mild, wan and frayed at the edges, this is outer London on a damp autumn Sunday. The ghosts of city poets appear as recitations embedded in Jim Parker’s tuneful, irony-free music. No problem in principle, but it needs slickness to come off and the Apollo strings are rough when they rise from their cushion of soft harmony.
Barrow Poets Benson and Herbert catch Betjeman’s suburban tone, and Parker gets good mileage from silver band and train evocations. Matching a music-hall tune to Victorian churches is neat, but a dimension is missing – something between camp and grandeur. This is more crucial with Wilde, where melancholy does duty for bleakness. A few stabbing discords travel some of the way to Reading Gaol, but the postlude backs off.
In the Concerto Parker’s slow movement works best, as its fetching clarinet line hints at Bach and takes on blue tinges. The rest is blue-rinse, spinning off easy tunes like Françaix without the sophistication. Two surprises: it’s odd to recite Ira Gershwin’s lyrics, stiffly, then play ‘A Foggy Day in London Town’ without them. The Bud Powell arrangement at last draws real passion. Too late, though, to efface the presiding spirit of Mr Pooter. Robert Maycock