Flying Solo - Janet Hilton (clarinet): CD
This new recording by Janet Hilton is truly a marathon of unaccompanied clarinet performance. The latest release from the Clarinet & Saxophone Classics label, it’s an epic collection of welljuxtaposed and fascinating works. And at 78 minutes it represents excellent value for money – pure, unadulterated, solo clarinet with none of those distracting other instruments.
The CD dives deep into the repertoire and certainly isn’t afraid to be niche, challenging the listener to get to grips with a sound world where variety and contrast are painted in subtler shades than when other instruments are present. The selection begins with Malcolm Arnold’s Fantasy, a bold work that makes the most of the clarinet’s capabilities and deserves to be performed more often. Here, and indeed throughout the disc, Hilton’s quiet playing is impressive, balancing precipitously on the edge of niente without ever losing its direction or intensity.
The CD’s most well-known works are the Stravinsky Three Pieces and the solo movement from Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, along with two works that are relatively familiar within the walls of the clarinet community: Richard Rodney Bennet’s Sonatina and Lennox Berkley’s Three Pieces. As for the rest – Edwin Roxburgh’s Wordsworth Miniatures, Mark Anthony Turnage’s 2 Memorials, Gordon Crosse’s A Year and a Day, Louis Cahuzac’s Arlequin, Henri Tomasi’s Sonatine Attique and John Mayer’s Sargam, the latter a world premier recording – how many can you honestly say you have you heard of? As an aid for recital programming alone, the disc is a valuable resource.
Overall, Flying Solo is a real achievement and testament to Hilton’s prowess as a musician after 50 years in the business.