Clarinet Fantasies: Nadia Wilson and Martin Butler: CD

This review was published on: August 27th 2018

It was from a wish to record a piece by Martin Butler, composed several decades ago when the composer was just 17, that the idea for the CD was formed. Barlow Dale: Four Characteristic Pieces is a set of four short movements, each depicting a feline character from a book written by Butler’s aunt. ‘Barlow Dale’ is a detective who happens to be a cat. This movement is adventurous and quirky, the jazzy nature suggesting a sense of self-importance, but a likeable cat at that. ‘Inspector Merlin’ is a bumbling character, showcasing some simple swing lines mainly in the chalumeau register. ‘Miss Honeyflower’ is a Siamese cat, and the descending, meowing glissando figures at the start of this movement reveal a more complex character with lots of solo teasing lines. Finally, ‘Asiam Rex’ is the criminal who always seems to get away with it. Fleetfooted and jaunty, this shorter movement finishes off a charming set of movements. Unpublished at the time of their composition, a copy of the original manuscript survived and was passed on to several pupils, eventually ending up in Wilson’s hands. The movements are light and the exaggerated caricatures will be familiar, but they are a lot of fun. Wilson easily brings out the four contrasting characters and projects the light-hearted nature with technical assurance.

The other three works presented around Butler’s work are the Sonata by Arnold Bax, the Sonatina by Joseph Horovitz and John Ireland’s Fantasy-Sonata, all English works performed with warmth and appropriate style and shape for each piece. I wanted a little more lightness within the ‘Vivace’ of Bax’s Sonata, but good technical control meant this was just a small request. The Horovitz was fun and playful with a lovely middle movement, while the Ireland had lyrical moments and good virtuosic control. The accompanying 12-page booklet features an interview with both performers explaining the initial idea for the CD, while programme notes by Wilson are informative and clearly presented.

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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