A wonderful recording...
Donald G. Hite III | Houston, Tx USA | 12/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The CD contains a variety of clarinet music that encompasses many styles. When I think I "English" music, the very pastoral, charming Finzi-type style comes to mind. While many pieces that are included are written in this style, such as Finzi's Five Bagatelles and Hurlstone's Four Characteristic Pieces, there are also more modern pieces such as the Howell and Cooke Sonatas, each of which has its own distinct sound.
I particularly enjoy the Stanford Sonata also. I read somewhere that it had "weak moments", but I personally think it is a great composition. The Sonata is said to take a lot of influence from Brahms, though compared to the Brahms Sonatas, I can say that this influence must be either very small or very general. Though written about 17 years after Brahms wrote his Sonatas, the Stanford Sonata seems more romantic (where as Brahms Sonatas seem to have one foot planted in the 20th century). Similarly, while the Brahms are more introspective and reserved, the Stanford seems more youthful and flamboyant.
Mrs. King's tone isn't the most colorful I've heard, but it is clear, focused, and pleasing to the ear. While I've read many reviews that criticize her technique as sloppy, I hear none of that here. While I certainly can't speak for everything she has recorded, on this disc, her technique is very clean. The pianist is very good as well, traversing more difficult pieces (like the Cooke) and making them sound easy."
20th-century English compositions for piano/clarinet
Alan Lekan | Boulder, CO | 01/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I suspect many considering this music may have been previously inspired by the beguiling clarinet music of Mozart, Weber or Brahms - all of which which wrote truly historic clarinet music rich in soaring, memorable melodies and wonderous, rhapsodic sonorities. Here in this two-CD set of clarinet/piano sonatas, we have early 20th-century music from notable composers in England at that time - Finzi, Stanford, Ferguson, Reizenstein, Hurlstone, Howells, Bliss and Cooke. As such, don't expect to find the charming melodies of Mozart or the soaring lyricism of Brahms here in these later English works. But, what you will find are innovative compostions taking full advantage of the attractive and complimenting timbres of the piano and clarinet along with much of the quintessential manner of English pastoral music.
Yet, as much as I am enthralled with the clarinet music of Mozart and especially Brahms, much of the English music here did not invigorate me with any sprightly allegros, or stir me emotionally with pathos or leave any memorable melodies in my musical mind afterwards. The Furgeson "Burlesque" was probably the most interesting short piece and the pastoral works are pure serenity and sonority; but most of the other works to me meander rather aimlessly with an unsatisfying sense of its progression and purpose beyond showcasing the beautiful, emotive sounds and range of the clarinet. Maybe it is because I prefer music of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic era and less the "Modern" works like many here. Perhaps too there is a reason only a few composers like Bach, Beethoven or Brahms were called "Great" while everyone else was just an "ordinary" composer. I think one thing the "Great" ones did was to write music that was truly memorable in its emotional impact and ability to "imprint" its complex musical score in your memory. Either way, as much as I wanted to like this music - and as much as I have enjoyed Thea King in other works - I did not connect with this English music for clarinet and piano beyond the lovely pastoral pieces by Finzi, Bliss or Hurlstone.
But, this is purely my personal response to this genre of music and less a criticism of the musicians. I'm sure those who enjoy modern compositions - and especially clarinettists and musically advanced listeners - will find much to revel in these works. While Ms. King's tonality may not be the most silky-smooth and sensual, her crisp attack and sharper articulation fits these pieces well. Also, there is much to admire in pianist Clifford Benson whose supporting role is immensely attractive - and is clean, vivid recorded sound that is typical of Hyperion recordings. If nothing else, the mixture and interplay of these two instruments ranks pretty high in terms of sheer musical, tonal pleasure. And here might lie the greatest gift of such pieces. So, maybe this music will grow on me beyond the seven times I heard them now, but so far the music itself was not so compelling for myself overall beyond a few highlights. But, to also note, Penguin Guide gave some nice marks to this set. Compositions - 3 stars, Performance - 4 stars, Sound Quality - 5 stars."