Notes and Editorial Reviews
Much of the clarinet’s repertoire has had to suffer unwarranted neglect, due to the understandable dominance of the works of Mozart, Brahms, and others. But just over two decades ago, that began to change with the establishment by the late Ted Perry of Hyperion Recordings. His first release was an LP of clarinet concertos by Gerald Finzi and Sir Charles Stanford with Dame Thea King as soloist. That visionary and revelatory recording was to be the first in a long line of releases by Dame Thea that would alter the perception of the clarinet repertoire for years to come. Suddenly performers were asking, “Where has this music been all these years?” and “Is there more material like this out there?” The answer to the latter query was a resounding
“Yes!” as Dame Thea’s recorded legacy indicates. Her recordings are a treasure trove of material in both the orchestral and chamber music genres and demonstrate Dame Thea’s interest not only in rare 18th and 19th century repertoire, but also in 20th-century material, in particular that from the British Isles.
[T]he Somervell and Jacob quintets made their initial bows on compact disc with their release in February... Each of the composers possessed their own unique gifts. The forms of expression include the idyllic and quintessential English Romanticism found in the examples of Sir Arthur Somervell (1883–1937)...
The performances are models of their kind, and even though they date from as long as two decades ago, they have an air of artistic and technical superiority that is yet to be— and may never be—surpassed. Dame Thea King plays with unswerving authority and at times an almost volcanic fervor that is beautifully wedded to an exceptional sense of balance and enviable poise. She is clearly in charge from beginning to end, has a warm, rich, and woody tone, and offers seamless execution that perfectly accentuates the kaleidoscopic array of the shifting moods found in these works. The Aeolian and Britten quartets support and complement Dame Thea’s unlabored performances with clearly defined and masterfully blended readings exemplified by erudition, instinct, and pellucidity. If that’s not convincing enough for you, Hyperion’s fabled exquisite and full-blooded recorded sound is another feather in the cap of these wonderful and revelatory discs. What are you waiting for?
-- Michael Carter, FANFARE [9/2003]
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