“Vintage Radios and Classic Microphones Find Their Place in Album Booklet”

by Madonna

Album art usually doesn’t feature images of old radio sets and microphones, but some albums are unique in their offerings. One such exceptional album presents a collection of clarinet pieces inspired by the music broadcasted by the BBC across its radio stations during the late 1920s and ’30s.

While the focus of this repertoire leans towards the lighter side of clarinet music, it’s essential to note that lightness in style doesn’t equate to a lack of artistry. John Bradbury and his accomplished piano accompanist, Ian Buckle, have expertly resurrected these compositions, pleasing not only with their charming melodies but also with their technical brilliance.

Standout moments on this album include Harold Samuel’s elegantly crafted “Three Clarinet Solos,” Adam Carse’s aptly named “Happy Tune,” Edward German’s unpretentious “Andante and Tarantella,” and Frederic Curzon’s delightfully humorous “Clarinetto con moto.” On the flip side, there are less compelling moments, such as the four compositions by Frederick Kell and Edith Swepstone’s melancholic “Une larme,” which, despite its French title, doesn’t manage to transcend its somber theme.

To diversify the musical journey and add depth, the album also includes two more extended pieces: John Ireland’s “Fantasy-Sonata” from 1943 and Ruth Gipps’s “Clarinet Sonata” from 1954. This strategic inclusion proves wise, as both works serve as excellent showcases for the performers’ talents. Ian Buckle’s pianism shines in the Ireland composition, allowing him to display both panache and a poetic touch. Meanwhile, John Bradbury’s remarkable dexterity in exploring the extremes of his clarinet’s register is prominently featured in Gipps’s substantial creation, which spans 18 minutes and alternates between sprightliness, pensiveness, and muscularity. These pieces, significant in their own right, possess the strength and character to captivate any radio audience, compelling them to set aside their tea and biscuits, lean in, and truly immerse themselves in the music.

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