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CD Review

English Clarinet Concertos

Thea King, clarinet
English Chamber Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
Hyperion CDA66634 DDD
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Reissued on Hyperion Helios CDH55060

This CD is a celebration, of several sorts. First, of the clarinet itself. Second, of British music. Third, of the traditional values of composing craftsmanship. Fourth, of three of the clarinet's leading exponents: Frederick Thurston, Benny Goodman and Thea King. King was Thurston's wife and she and Christopher Palmer have devised this programme to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Thurston's death. It is a fitting tribute to one of the most influential musicians of his day, and lovers of the clarinet and of British music in general need not hesitate before buying this excellent CD.

Palmer's notes point out the connection between the music and Thurston and Goodman, who apparently knew and admired each other's work although the never became close friends. Malcolm Arnold's First Clarinet Concerto was written in 1948, with the sound of Thurston in mind, and it was he who gave the first performance at the Edinburgh Festival the next year; the Second was premièred by Goodman, for whom it was written, in 1974. Thurston was also the soloist in the first performance of Elizabeth Maconchy's Concertino #1 in 1947. Goodman sort-of commissioned a Clarinet Concerto from Britten, and then dropped the idea. And the Scherzetto, arranged by Palmer from Arnold's film score to the comedy You know what sailors are (1953), was composed knowing that Thurston would be playing in the recording orchestra. Only Maconchy's Concertino #2 does not have a Thurston/Goodman link, but it must have been an obvious choice for this programme.

The music of all six works is in a similar style

Copyright © 1993 & 1998, Martin Anderson.
This review originally appeared in CD Review