Vic Chiodo / Paul Hartley

English Music for Clarinet & Piano

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The album title English Music for Clarinet and Piano might bring the word "arcana" to mind for all but the most dedicated musical anglophiles, but this private-label release goes to show you never can tell. The English are looking better and better for having stood up to serialist orthodoxy in the middle of the last century, and what this disc offers, in addition to a variety of treatments of the clarinet, is a great sampling of British styles. The program opens with Malcolm Arnold and Gerald Finzi, two composers moderately well known outside Britain, but none of the music is exactly familiar. The Five Bagatelles of Finzi are minimal yet lyrical revelations that inhabit the same world as his songs. It is perhaps the completely unknown composers who are the most fun to discover, and each inhabits a different stylistic world: Howard Ferguson's Four Short Pieces are modal works that reflect the growing fascination with Renaissance music in Britain, but attempt to extend that interest into a more modern language. Arnold Cooke's Sonata in B flat (it is just B flat, not major or minor) shows Hindemith's influence. And the Four Characteristic Pieces of William Hurlstone (only three are included), who died at age 30, are thoroughly enjoyable romps. The disc closes with an expansive and highly melodic clarinet sonata by Bax. Beautifully played throughout by the American duo of Vic Chiodo and Paul Hartley, this music may well be essential for clarinetists, and it's recommended to anyone who enjoys English music of the twentieth century.

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