Clarinet Music Rich in Refined Color
After the London premiere of the symphonic poem The Raven the critics sang ecstatic hymns of praise to this work luxuriating in unique orchestral colors and to its young composer Josef Holbrooke. This work brought him his breakthrough, and with it his renown as an innovative and original contemporary composer was established. Holbrooke was regarded as a composer who never merely followed the trends of the times; like every great artist, he continued to develop solely within his own idiom. And his idiom was obliged to the musical language of the late nineteenth century with its primacy of expressive elements and to the constant quest for new tonal effects. In addition, as the musicologist Ernest Newman stated, Holbrooke had a special gift: »He can write a big, heartfelt melody that searches us to the very bone.« Both also apply to the Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet op. 27. The complicated compositional history of this work extended over a period of more than fifty years. Since there are several versions authorized by Holbrooke, some of which are heard on this new CD, we cannot really speak of a final work design. If Josef Holbrooke was frequently and positively termed the »Cockney Wagner« because of his mythological opera trilogy The Cauldron of Annwn and his programmatic choral and orchestral works on the grand scale, then Claude Debussy’s influence on his musical thought was also quite significant. This comes to clear expression above all in the three other works on this CD: Fairyland, Cyrene, and Phryne. Although they are of programmatic orientation not only because of their titles, impressionism just as clearly shapes their musical design. Robert Plane, the principal clarinetist of the Northern Sinfonia, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, joins forces with other renowned soloists for the interpretation of these sound pictures rich in refined color.