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English Fantasy
William ALWYN (1905-1982)
Clarinet Sonata (1962) [12:26]
John CARMICHAEL (b.1930)
FÍtes ChampÍtres [13:38]
Aria and Finale [15:42]
Clive JENKINS (b.1938)
Five Pieces for clarinet and piano (2003) [12:42]
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS (1889-1960)
Three Pieces for clarinet and piano (1950s) [9:01]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Fantasy-Sonata (1943) [14:12]
Peter Cigleris (clarinet)
Antony Gray (piano)
rec. August 2010, Royal College of Music Studios
CALA CACD77015 [76:41]

The excellent clarinettist Peter Cigleris, together with fine pianist Antony Gray, has constructed a good-looking recital that balances works from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s with more contemporary fare.
 
The focus is on British music, though John Carmichael is Australian. Alwynís Clarinet Sonata of 1962 receives a richly committed performance, fluid with regard to rubato, sensitively coloured, and showing due regard for the pacing of the many incidents in this twelve-minute work. Its refined lyricism jostles with a very assertive sense of self, almost as if chamber intimacies were vacuum-packed with film music outtakes; the final section features a spectacular dismount, and the performers are fully up to its rigorous and exciting demands. Carmichaelís FÍtes ChampÍtres has traces of Poulenc and is freshly lyrical. Cast in Baroque sounding movements ó Pastorale, Passepied, Berceuse and Rigaudon ó Carmichael ensures sufficient contrast always to interest the ear. The wistful B section in the Rigaudon is especially distinguished. His Aria and Finale is the longest work here, at nearly 16 minutes in this performance. Originally written for soprano saxophone it translates well to the clarinet. The long lyrical lines, a touch impressionist, are certainly well suited for the instrument. The light-hearted dialogues in the Finale are both fulsome and loquacious; thereís a good cadenza and much graceful writing offering excellent opportunities for variety of tone colour, rubato and elasticity of phrasing. Perhaps itís a touch too long; my only complaint.
 
Clive Jenkinsí Five Pieces was written in 2003 and premiered by the composer and Cigleris. These artful little pieces are a constant delight. The central one has a light dusting of Faurť at the outset, and has taken on a life of its own. Originally written as an orchestral entríacte it was for years the signature tune for a BBC Radio Devon programme. Rightly so: itís a memorable theme. To add to the pleasure thereís a witty fugue and a whirling waltz to conclude. Armstrong Gibbsí Three Pieces embrace a March theme, not unlike unwritten film music, and a delightful song-without-words in the shape of a second movement Air.
 
The disc itself finishes with a performance of John Irelandís sonata, performances of which are coming much more often these days. Cigleris has listened to Irelandís own performance, he notes; this is the off-air broadcast with Frederick Thurston that featured on a couple of BBC3 Radio broadcasts and then was made commercially available. Despite Irelandís strictures on piano chordal weight and steady tempi, Iíve noted before that he frequently clips his recommended timings in his own works. Itís the same in this Sonata where he and Thurston take around 13 and a half minutes, a similar timing adopted by Michael Collins in his most recent Collins disc. Cigleris and Gray take 14:12, similar to Gervase de Peyer and Eric Parkin on Lyrita. In the end itís a relatively small difference, though itís not without consequences, and what matters most is how one binds its three moods, the rhapsodic quality of which needs to be subject to some control. Fortunately this pairing is not lacking, and they bring nuance and insight to bear, as well as fine tone and ensemble, as indeed they do the whole well recorded recital.
 
Jonathan Woolf

See a[so review by Rob Barnett


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