JAMES FRANCIS BROWN (b.1969): Clarinet Concerto “Lost Lanes - Shadow Groves”, Trio Concertante for String Trio and String Orchestra, The Heavens and the Heart for Chorus and Small Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 12U065
Label: Resonus Classics
Description: Brown receives a glowing tribute from his friend and colleague David Matthews in the booklet, citing his commitment to "the renewal of tonality" and the influence of "the ecstatic lyricism of Tippett" (thus presumably the early Tippett of the Concerto for Double String Orchestra, the Corelli Fantasia and The Midsummer Marriage). This makes perfect sense, as these are important aspects of Matthews' own music which, while significantly different, is clearly part of the same tradition. When we welcomed the disc of Brown's chamber music (08N096), we also cited his apparent indebtedness to Elgar and Vaughan Williams, also evident in these fine orchestral works, along with unmistakable tracees of Sibelius. Trio Concertante - really a triple concerto - is a robust, characterful work, very much in the English tradition. Cast in a single span, the piece falls into three broad sections that suggest a three-movement layout. Anyone who has loved the beauties and unique atmosphere of the English countryside will respond to the evocative Clarinet concerto, it's four movements transporting the listener to the light and shadow-dappled vistas, isolated hamlets, country churchyards and slightly sinister lanes enclosed in dense hedgerows of the landscape. A broad, open-air, English-pastoral opening movement is followed by a kind of scherzo, with the vague menace of an M.R. James ghost story. The slow movement evokes the atmosphere of deep history that surrounds the many country churches that dot the English countryside, and the finale suggests a walk through the landscape in the gathering shadows of dusk, breezy and bracing but tinged with melancholy. The three Psalm settings are very effective; the first unexpectedly muscular and energetic, the second with a sense of solemn strength, the third, jubilant. Catriona Scott (clarinet), Benjamin Nabarro (violin), Rachel Roberts (viola), Gemma Rosefield (cello), Choir of Royal Holloway, Orchestra Nova; George Vass.