John Mahon, whose name is new to the record catalogue, was the most celebrated British clarinettist of his day; he was born in Oxford about 1748, and died in Dublin in 1834. This CD contains most of his surviving music (his First Clarinet Concerto is lost). The concerto has rather a discursive first movement, without very much character of its own; the Andante follows current fashion in the 1780s by being based on a Scottish folk-song, which is quaintly charming, and the finale takes a piece by Arne as its starting point. Like other clarinet concertos of the time - and earlier, such as those of Molter - Mahon's does not call on the instrument's lower register, which limits the tonal palette; this may be partly so that it could also beRead more played on the flute, oboe or violin (which was good for sales). The duets, written for clarinets or basset horns and played here on the latter, are fluent and effective pieces.
To my mind, however, the chief interest of this disc lies in the fine J. C. Bach Sinfonia concertante and the Hook concerto. The Bach is one of the group thought to have been composed for the Bach-Abel concerts, and uses a variety of solo instruments, chiefly the clarinets and the bassoon in the first movement, but later the flutes get a large share of the solo music, and in the graceful minuet-finale there is some attractive writing for the whole wind band. This is a very appealing piece with characteristically warm invention and leisurely development. The concerto by James Hook, a sadly underrated composer, is a highly professional piece, dating from 1812 and distinctly later in style than the other music here, almost in the manner of Weber's concertos; it is very resourcefully and demandingly written, with much rapid passage-work across the instrument's entire range. It is dazzlingly played here by Colin Lawson, a sustained tour of virtuosity, coupled with a depth and richness of tone one hardly expects from a period clarinet as well as high musicianship.
Excellent orchestral playing under Peter Holman, who as usual provides informative notes: he and Hyperion deserve our gratitude for bringing these pieces into the catalogue. Anyone interested in the clarinet and its early repertory should be sure to try this disc.
-- S.S., Gramophone [8/1997]
Reviewing original Hyperion release Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Clarinet no 2 in F majorby John Mahon Performer:
Colin Lawson (Clarinet)
Parley of Instruments
Period: Classical Written: by 1785; England
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