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Malcolm ARNOLD Chamber Music - Vol 2
Flute Sonatina op.19. Clarinet Sonatina op.29. Oboe Sonatina op.28. Recorder Sonatina op.41. Fantasy for Clarinet op.87. Fantasy for Bassoon op.86. Fantasy for Horn op.88. Trio for flute viola and bassoon op.6. Fantasy for Oboe op.90. Fantasy for flute op.89.                
The Nash Ensemble
Helios CDH55072

This reissue (recorded 1984, Hyperion 1988) inlcudes Sonatinas for flute/recorder (Judith Pearce), clarinet (Michael Collins) and oboe (Gareth Hulse) with piano, unaccompanied solo Fantasies for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon (Brian Wightman) and horn (John Pigneguy), and a trio for flute, viola and bassoon. It will appeal to admirers of Malcolm Arnold (amongst whom I count myself) and collectors of intégrales (of which I am not not one). It will also useful to players of the instruments, suggesting recital repertoire to investigate, and welcome to the many fans of The Nash Ensemble, offering as it does opportunities to hear spotlit in succession each of the distinguished wind players, Roger Chase (viola), with their distinctive pianist (Ian Brown).

The music covers the period from 1942 (the trio) until 1966. There is more similarity than diversity. The notes tell us that the sonatinas (the longest 8 minutes) are designed 'to delight and divert - - without causing unnecessay problems for players or listeners'. The solo pieces are well mannered, reminding us that they date from before the transformation of modern instrumental resources, exemplified by Berio's Sequenzas. They are pleasant enough, short and always well crafted. There is a lot of determined, bright jollity, with an occasional shadow to remind us that, as with many entertainers, there is a darker, depressive side being kept at bay (c.p. the bleak 9th symphony, which initially caused embarrassment and had long to wait for performance).

These are chips off the main blocks and are best taken separately for easy listening. They should fit well into radio miscellany programmes. I have been glad to play the pieces through, but would not anticipate returning to them. Better give your time to the symphonies.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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