Octets & Clarinet Quintet

Album cover art for upc 7318599925479
Label: BIS
Catalog: BIS-2547
Format: SACD

Wigmore Soloists; Collins, Michael

Following their critically acclaimed albums of Schubert (BIS-2597), Mozart and Birchall (BIS-2647), works for clarinet trio (BIS-2535) and, more recently, Beethoven and Berwald (BIS-2707), the Wigmore Soloists now turn their attention to twentieth-century English chamber works which, while eschewing some of the continent’s modernist tendencies, are both deeply personal and supremely written, highlighting the specific colours of each of the instruments. Howard Ferguson’s Octet, a direct and engaging work, was the first of his works to attract attention. Ferguson’s skill is brilliantly demonstrated in this tonally ambiguous work, which takes its instrumentation from Schubert’s famous Octet. The main characteristic of Sir Arthur Bliss’s Clarinet Quintet, like those of Mozart and Brahms with the same instrumental line-up, is its intense, overtly emotional lyricism, but the sunny, extrovert aspects of Bliss’s character ultimately prevail in the brilliantly energetic finale. Robin Holloway’s Serenade in C for octet is the most recent work on this disc, and also features the instrumentation of Schubert’s Octet, which the composer acknowledges as a model. Few contemporary composers display as keen a sense of humour as Holloway who wished here to give “an affectionate twist to tonal common practice and light-music clichés all the way from Biedermeier Vienna to Southend Pier”.

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