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Edwin Roxburgh
Clarinet Concerto & Saturn

RNCM Symphony Orchestra/ Linda Merrick clarinet/ Edwin Roxburgh conductor

Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra Peter Stark conductor NMC D119

This is an important release of large scale music by a virtuoso oboist and composer who has devoted so much of his life to his fruitful work as a teacher at the Royal College of Music (now he's at Birmingham Conservatoire) that his major compositions have tended to be unfairly overlooked.

The clarinet concerto (1995, a single movement lasting a little over half an hour) is one of the most important by a British composer, and far more interesting than, say, Elliott Carter's heard last week. It was premiered by its dedicatee Gervase de Peyer, who was in my class at school. Linda Merrick revels in the opportunity to display all her skills in a free ranging work of many moods which 'could never have been the product of dogmatic formulae'.

Saturn for orchestra and electronics (1982) was inspired by Voyager II and the geometry of the planet's satellites, which have a variation each, and incorporates a tribute to Holst's Saturn; Roxburgh is contemplating another astronomic/astrological work. Colourful and exciting music.

The presentation is exemplary, with bold, good-sized black-on-white print kind to readers with elderly eyesight! Roxburgh enthuses about mythology, space travel, tape delay, controlled feedback and ring modulation etc and Bayan Northcott of The Independent reminds us of other luminaries at the RCM (Anthony Milner, John Lambert & Jeremy Dale Roberts - whom I've known too), all of whose varied outputs have been 'undeservedly sidelined by their influential teaching'.

Don't worry that these recordings are by not fully professional orchestras - you'd never guess, so assured is their delivery by the students of Manchester and the young people of Herfordshire; a credit to both conductors. One of NMC's best!


© Peter Grahame Woolf