FROM RUSSIA: Music for Clarinet and Orchestra

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divine art dda 25233 [52:56]

This year’s releases get better and better. The Divine Art label – located in “God’s own county” of Yorkshire – has recorded for our delight this attractive disc of melodic Russian/Slav music. It features the gorgeous playing of Ian Scott, who is principal clarinet with the accompanying Birmingham-based Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

A man blessed with many talents, Robin White (b.1945) is the conductor, composer of the album’s core work: the first recording of his ‘Russian Suite’ [18:26] with its reconceptualisation of some of that country’s folk music, arranger of all 13 tracks, and a major contributor to the booklet notes. Light music listeners to Radio 2 may be aware of his arrangements for BBC orchestras.

Two pieces by the first of three Russian composers, Modest Mussorgsky: Introduction and the lively Gopak (Russian Dance) from ‘Sorochinsky Fair’ open the album and are followed by the premiere recording of the orchestral version of Nicholai Rimsky-Korsakov’s single-movement Clarinet Concerto [8:04] originally scored for military band.

Then there is a quartet of pieces by Tchaikovsky: the lovely Andante cantabile from ‘String Quartet No.1’, “None but the Lonely Heart” – popular with a wide range of singers as well as instrumentalists – and two pieces originally written for the piano: Humoresque and Waltz in E flat from his ‘Album for the Young’.

The Italian composer Vittorio Monti’s famous Czardas (this is the Slav connection) concludes the selection – leaving the listener after only seven minutes under an hour of pleasure-giving music wanting more.

The bulk of the recording was made at London’s Henry Wood Hall during a September break in the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, with five tracks added in March 2021, all under social distancing rules.

© Peter Burt 2021

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