This is the second in a series of albums devoted to British clarinet sonatas; you might not have been aware that there was enough good material there to justify even one, but clarinetist Michael Collins is a superb player who has been making a strong case for the whole repertory. The music on this program is generally lighter in tone than that on volume one, if that's to your taste. It opens with an absolutely delightful find: the Sonatina for clarinet and piano, Op. 29, of Malcolm Arnold is a jaunty work whose mixture of 4/4 and 6/8 in the first movement seems suggested by popular styles but keeps them tantalizingly at arm's length. The work's slow movement is a fine example of Arnold's lyrical gift. Nothing else quite reaches the level of the Arnold, but any of the pieces is enjoyable on its own merits. The Sonata for clarinet and piano by Arnold Cooke is an essay in Hindemith's style with a good feel for Hindemith's way with instrumentally idiomatic writing, while the Sonatina by Joseph Horovitz is another light, lyrical work that frames the program nicely in combination with the Arnold. The Tributes by Edward Gregson and Le Tombeau de Ravel by Arthur Benjamin are neo-classic works that specifically refer to the styles of earlier composers; probably they together constitute a bit much of that element. Nevertheless, Collins is a player with a flawless tone and a fine sense of telling detail, and the music is beautifully recorded. The album is a must for wind players, and the little Arnold sonatina is a fetching work that would enhance any concert program.
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