CD review: Wind Blown: CD

This review was published on: April 27th 2020

Sonatas for wind instruments by Peter Hope, Thomas Verity (clarinet) plus Frank Forst, Harvey Davies, Janet Simpson, John Turner, Richard Simpson, Simon Passmore and Yukiko Sano
Divine Art Records

Peter Hope has three commercial CDs to his name, as well as a rather impressive body of orchestral works, chamber music, choral music and songs. On top of this is a list of film music orchestrations for James Horner and John Williams; and let’s not overlook arrangements for José Carreras, the late Jessye Norman and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, to name just a few.

This CD contains four wind sonatas and two smaller works. While this is tuneful, melodic and tonal music, it is far from the world of film music. Yes, you can hear hints of the cinema, and there are influences from the worlds of jazz and klezmer, but these are serious pieces and would not sound out of place in a venue such as Wigmore Hall in London.

The four sonatas are well written for the instruments, and the interaction between the solo instruments and piano is interesting and varied. All four are performed on the CD by the players that gave the first performances, and you can hear the conviction that these performers have for this music.

There is much to praise in these sonatas; however, my favourites were the Oboe and Clarinet Sonatas. The Oboe Sonata opens with one of the most yearning, melancholic melodies I have heard in a long time, and the work is fittingly dedicated to the memory of Lady Barbirolli. The second movement is a jolly scherzo with a lovely trio, and the final movement is a great eight-bar jazzy movement full of verve and toe-tapping material. It is a captivating work that deserves to be heard more.

The Clarinet Sonata is well worth investigating. The entire range of the instrument is used, and the musical material is interesting and varied. It is also technically demanding – not a work for the beginner. The standout movement for me was the last movement, called ‘The Clarinettist on the Roof’ – a reference to the familiar fiddler. The music certainly has a quality that one associates with that film, and a feel of klezmer music.

Both the Bassoon and Recorder Sonatas are pieces that demonstrate the composer’s knowledge of writingfor these instruments. Again, these are not works for the beginner, and there are some great passages that push the instruments to their limits. The moto perpetuo in the Recorder Sonata is a non-stop run of semiquavers for both the recorder and the piano, with a heavy hint of jazz thrown into the mix. The Bassoon Sonata has a lively finale too, contrasting well with the more introverted and contemplative high central melody in the first movement.

The CD closes with two shorter works, which I must mention. Tallis Remembered was first performed at the William Alwyn Festival in 2013, originally for violin, recorder and piano. It is presented here in an arrangement for recorder, clarinet and piano. It is a set of variations on Wendy Cope’s poem Tallis’s Canon, and for a work just over three minutes it is one of the most beautiful pieces on the CD. The CD notes include the poem, and it is worth reading this to enhance your understanding of the music.

The CD concludes with a fun piece called A Walk with my Dog, Molly – a tour de force for solo recorder written in memory of Molly. The performance includes a narration, read on this recording by the composer’s wife, the poet Pam Zinnemann-Hope. The music portrays events including a game of fetch and an episode where the dog is chasing a cat. Of all the works on the CD, this is the closest to film music. I can see an audience enjoying this work.

In conclusion, these works are fantastic additions to the modern woodwind repertoire and display Peter Hope’s skill as a composer in writing such finely crafted music. They would sit nicely on any UK examination syllabus – so, Peter, get them sent off for consideration.

Adrian Connell

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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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