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ClassicsOnline Home » Recorder Music (English) - LANE, P. / ARNOLD, M. / PITFIELD, T. / GREGSON, E. / LYON, D. / PARROTT, I. (Turner, Royal Ballet Sinfonia, G. Sutherland)
Although the recorder boasts an immense repertoire from the Renaissance to the Baroque, to which Philip Lane pays tribute with his Suite Ancienne, this recording presents an exciting selection of 20th-century music for this popular instrument. It includes a version of Malcolm Arnold’s Concertino specially orchestrated with the composer’s agreement for this recording by Philip Lane. The recorder’s affiliation with folk and dance music is celebrated in works by Thomas Pitfield and Ian Parrott, while Edward Gregson illustrates the moods of three famous Matisse paintings.
By James A. Altena
By Todd Gorman
American Record Guide
ENGLISH RECORDER MUSIC
Lane • Arnold • Pitfield • Gregson • Lyon • Parrott • Bullard
Philip LANE (b. 1950): Suite Ancienne for recorder and string orchestra
Philip Lane was born in Cheltenham in 1950 and read music at Birmingham University with John Joubert and Peter Dickinson. He has written in most genres, including music for radio and television, as well as making a speciality of reconstructing classic film scores from the original soundtracks for new digital recordings. His Suite Ancienne, ‘in the olden style’, is based on music commissioned by the Cheltenham International Festival of Music in 1988 to accompany a pageant celebrating the bicentenary of George III’s visit to the spa town. It was originally scored for a large wind ensemble, as it was performed in the open air, and made allusions to the 1780s and earlier while still maintaining elements that mark it as twentieth-century in origin. The recorder version (with piano) was first performed by John Turner in Wellington, New Zealand, in May 1993.
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921–2006): Concertino for recorder and string orchestra, Op. 41a (orch. Philip Lane)
Sir Malcolm Arnold was born in Northampton in 1921, and developed from being a virtuoso trumpeter with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, playing under Beecham, Constant Lambert, Bruno Walter, Ansermet and others, to becoming one of the leading composers of his generation. He has composed many of the most celebrated film scores of the twentieth century, working with directors such as David Lean, John Huston and Carol Reed. His works for the concert hall include nine symphonies, three sinfoniettas, concertos for recorder, flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, trumpet, guitar, organ, harmonica, viola, cello, two violins, piano duet and two pianos (three hands), sonatas for piano, violin and viola, and a series of Fantasies for solo instruments, as well as three ballet scores, Homage to the Queen, Sweeney Todd, and Rinaldo and Armida, and the operas The Open Window and The Dancing Master. He died in 2006.
The last to be written of Arnold’s four sonatinas for wind instruments was that for recorder, composed in 1953 for the blind Sheffield recorder player Philip Rodgers, for whom works for recorder and strings were written by both Arnold Cooke and Wilfred Josephs. It is contemporaneous with Arnold’s Symphony No. 2, with which it shares some thematic material, as well as the rumbustious character of its finale. It has been specially orchestrated as a Concertino for this recording by Philip Lane, with the composer’s agreement.
Thomas PITFIELD (1903–1999): Concerto for recorder, string orchestra and percussion
Thomas Pitfield was born in Bolton in 1903 and died in 1999. His father was a joiner and builder, and his mother a dressmaker. Although from infancy he had first artistic and then musical leanings, these were denigrated by his conformist family, and at the age of fourteen he was pitchforked protestingly into a seven-year apprenticeship in engineering, designing transmission machinery for the cotton industry. His savings during this period did, however, afford him a year’s study of piano, cello and harmony at the Royal Manchester College of Music. After he had attempted a freelance career as a musician, commercial pressures dictated a change of direction and he won a scholarship to study art and cabinet-making at the Bolton School of Art. During his years as an art and craft teacher in the Midlands he became increasingly known as a composer, in no small measure thanks to the help and encouragement of Hubert Foss, of the Oxford University Press, who published many of his compositions and commissioned for the Press cover designs (including that for Britten’s Simple Symphony), cards, folk-song translations and book illustrations. In 1947 Pitfield was invited to teach composition at his old college, and remained on its staff (through the transition to the Royal Northern College of Music) until his seventieth birthday in 1973. In a long and happy retirement he continued to pursue both his musical and his artistic interests until well into his nineties. His Concerto for recorder, string orchestra and percussion was composed in 1985/86 and was first performed by John Turner with the Goldberg Ensemble in the 1986 Bowdon Festival. The first movement (which uses both treble and descant recorders) is in sonata form, built on three themes, the first of these being a rather perky march, the second bearing a slight likeness to the Russian gopak, and the third having early French overtones (Couperin was a particular favourite of the composer). The second movement, on the tenor recorder, starts with a gentle tune in the composer’s beloved 7/8 metre, and continues with one variant, marked sereno e misterioso, of solemn processional character. The finale is a light-footed tarantella in rondo form with a few less brisk digressions. Some of the material in the concerto is derived from the composer’s earlier suite Dancery for recorder and harpsichord.
Edward GREGSON (b. 1945): Three Matisse Impressions for recorder, strings, harp and percussion
Edward Gregson was born in 1945 in Sunderland, and is a distinguished composer whose work includes orchestral, chamber, instrumental and choral music as well as music for the theatre, film and television. His concertos for wind instruments are established repertoire in many countries, and his Tuba Concerto now has the status of a classic for the instrument. Commissions include a Clarinet Concerto (1994—for Michael Collins and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra) and a Violin Concerto (1999/2000—for Lyn Fletcher and the Hallé Orchestra). He retired in 2008 as Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He completed the orchestral version of his Three Matisse Impressions, a work originally written for recorder and piano in 1993, in 1997 specially for John Turner, who gave the première with the Northern Chamber Orchestra in the same year. It illustrates the moods of three famous Matisse paintings. The first movement is based on a rising ostinato figure first heard in the accompaniment. The middle section is darker and more dissonant in mood. The second movement is slower and more ‘impressionistic’—rhythm here is neither definite nor precise, just as in the pointillistic painting on which it is based. The third movement portrays the mood of the famous painting La Danse. It is, predictably, fast and rhythmic. Near the end the sopranino takes over from the treble recorder for the final frenzied coda.
David LYON (b. 1938): Concertino for recorder and string orchestra
David Lyon was born in the West Midlands in 1938. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and Bristol University. Several of his works have been recorded by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, including a disc of his orchestral music to mark his sixtieth birthday in 1998. The Concertino was written in 1999 for John Turner. Its three movements are straightforward in construction and are designed to highlight the recorder’s decorative capabilities. The emphasis is therefore on thematic elaboration rather than ‘development’. The two waltz-like melodies in the second movement are taken from Lyon’s musical Albert’s Bridge, while Promenade is a set of variations on a melody which began life as a TV theme tune.
Thomas PITFIELD: Three Nautical Sketches for recorder and string orchestra
Thomas Pitfield’s Three Nautical Sketches were composed in 1982 for a concert of maritime music at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (other works given their premières in the same concert were by Gordon Crosse and William Alwyn), and were later scored by the composer for recorder and strings. The movements quote extensively from sea-shanties (the composer was a great lover of folk-song). The first piece is a quodlibet on The Three Mariners and Donkey Riding, the second movement is a meditation on the well-known tune of Tom Bowling, and the finale translates the Northumbrian folk-tune The Keel Row into a wild Keel Reel.
Ian PARROTT (b. 1916): Prelude and Waltz for recorder and string orchestra
Ian Parrott was born in 1916 in London, and following study at Harrow School and the Royal College of Music was Margaret Bridges Music Scholar at New College, Oxford, from 1934 to 1937. After war service in Egypt, he entered academic life as a lecturer at Birmingham University, from there progressing to the Gregynog Chair of Music at Aberystwyth, a post which he held until his retirement in 1983. Both during and after his academic career he composed prolifically, his output including four operas, five symphonies, five string quartets and many shorter works. Many of his works are inspired by his love of Wales, its people, landscape and folklore. In addition he has written books on Elgar, Warlock and Cyril Scott. He has composed several works for the recorder, including the suite Portraits for recorder and piano, a song-cycle with recorder obbligato (Songs of Renewal), and the solo piece Awel Dyfi, as well as the present work with strings. His Prelude and Waltz was composed in 1997 and first performed by John Turner and the Sinfonia Cambrensis under Anthony Randall at the Tenby Festival in September 1998. The Waltz uses the old-time Viennese one-in-a-bar lilt, and its main tune was heard in a dream by the composer’s wife Jeanne, whom he married in 1996. After a recorder cadenza the material of the Prelude is recalled in a series of flashbacks before the work dashes to an upbeat conclusion.
Alan BULLARD (b. 1947): Recipes for recorder and string orchestra
Alan Bullard was born in 1947 in Upper Norwood, London, and studied under Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, and subsequently at Nottingham University. The English choral tradition was very much part of his upbringing, and has resulted in many choral works, notable amongst which are Madrigal Book and The Spacious Firmament, both broadcast by the BBC Northern Singers and their conductor Stephen Wilkinson, and three substantial choral and orchestral cantatas, A Song to St Helena, Dance of the Universe and Canticle of Freedom. As well as having a large catalogue of instrumental and ensemble music, he is much in demand as a composer of music for amateurs and young people and his many works for wind instruments have gained great popularity. Recipes was originally written for solo recorder, and given its première by John Turner in this form in Wilmslow in 1989. The pieces proved so successful, however, that the composer subsequently made versions with accompaniments for (respectively) guitar, piano, and string orchestra (or quartet). The work is a collation of five courses, each dish exhibiting its national characteristics in blatant fashion. Coffee and Croissants is a chic waltz, followed by a lazy Barbecue Blues. Prawn Paella takes the form of a habanera, incorporating the quintessential Spanish quotation. Special Chop Suey, with its plaintive pentatonic melody, has a twanging accompaniment reminiscent of the Chinese cheng. The final movement, Fish and Chips, is a circus galop, which pokes fun at its own vulgarity and virtuosity.
© John Turner 2000
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