Portraits : McGill/McHale Trio: CD

This review was published on: June 20th 2018

Anthony McGill may already be known to some readers as principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic. He is joined by his brother, flautist Demarre McGill, principal of Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and pianist Michael McHale to record an eclectic mix of new works and arrangements for this flute, clarinet and piano trio combination. Each work paints a portrait or represents an image or character.

Chris Rogerson’s A Fish Will Rise opens the disc, a nine-minute work sounding fresh and open. The title comes from the novel/memoir A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, and the sparkle and play of the water are reflected in the musical interplay, with touches of Copland. The main work, by Valerie Coleman, is Portraits of Langston in six movements, each of which is preceded by a poem by Langston, read by the actor Mahershala Ali. These are delightful movements. ‘Prelude: Helen Keller’ mirrors the silent world of the deaf-blind author Helen Keller and how she emerged metaphorically from darkness into light. Compelling musical lines are offered here, first by the clarinet, then the flute. ‘Danse Africaine’ allows flute and clarinet to dance freely until the rhythmic piano draws them into a frenzy. ‘Le Grand Duc Mambo’ depicts a fight in a Parisian bar with flute and clarinet throwing punches. ‘Harlem’s Summer Night’, a slow, almost impressionistic number, completes the set. Wonderful colours are featured throughout, with the voice of Ali adding a soft tension that draws the listener in.

The nightclub sounds of Guillaume Connesson are played to fantastic effect in Techno-Parade. Some difficult technical and rhythmic elements are managed brilliantly here. This is followed by Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, which feels odd at first, as this couldn’t be further from Techno-Parade, but this is an effective and sensitive arrangement giving both flute and clarinet suitable amounts of melody and accompaniment. Paul Schofield’s Sonatina comprises three exciting dances: ‘Charleston’, ‘Hunter Rag’ and ‘Jig’. Two new arrangements, Philip Hammond’s reworking of The Lamentation of Owen O’Neil and McHale’s version of the Irish tune The Lark in the Clear Air finish the disc. As is to be expected with players of this calibre, the playing is extremely good, featuring excellent ensemble and beautiful colours. A fine recital disc from this not-socommon formation.

Stephanie Reeve

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The Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 3010228, whose registered office is at Flat 51, Parkview Apartments, 122 Chrisp Street, London, E14 6ET. Email: membership(@) Tel: 01642 769 558

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