For many years a frequent arranger for the BBC Concert Orchestra, and composer of the theme music for the BBC television news used from 1969 until the 1980s, Peter Hope is a composer whose experience shows in his craftsmanship and idiomatic instrumental writing. This is particularly apparent in the four sonatas for wind instruments composed between 2009 and 2015. All are in three movements and each opens with a slow introduction which, apart from that for oboe, begins with a falling semitone for the soloist – a particular Hope fingerprint. His compositional language is at once evident; frequently episodic and lyrical, but also energetic and virtuosic, rewarding as much for listener as player.
The oboe sonata is the earliest, dating from 2009, and was composed in memory of the celebrated oboist Evelyn Rothwell (Lady Barbirolli). The first movement is marked Moderato, but there are successive changes of tempo and mood introducing fresh thematic material, but later superimposing the opening melody above a more lively accompaniment, before closing much as it began. Vivace is the tempo indication for the fleet second movement which amid its energetic progress a more lyrical episode occurs, again providing contrast. The final Allegro has the unmistakable influence of jazz, but the opening melody of the first movement again makes a brief appearance before the emphatic close.
Composed for a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music celebrating the opening of the Ida Carroll Walkway in 2015, the first two movements of the clarinet sonata have the same tempo indications as the oboe sonata. In this instance, however, the intense mood of the opening of the first persists throughout. The second is syncopated and distinctly jazzy, its opening melody having hints of that which pervades the oboe sonata, but again a slower episode interrupts what is otherwise a scherzo. The finale is marked Freely: Allegro, and is subtitled “The Clarinettist on the Roof”, a reference to its unmistakable Klezmer inspired influence. The close is nevertheless somewhat introspective.
It is the expressive second movement, headed Threnody, of the recorder sonata that was composed before the other two, it having been dedicated to the memory of distinguished historian Nicholas Henshall, and performed at a concert in Stockport in 2016 celebrating his life and work. It is a heartfelt utterance for treble recorder with an underlying calm. The Fantasia opening movement, as of the other sonatas, begins broodingly, before taking on more urgency. A central section for descant introduces yet more energy, but a return to treble and the opening material brings the movement to a close in the mood with which it began. A flurry of repeated note figuration on descant, reminiscent of Telemann, begins the final Moto perpetuo, but a middle section for treble and tenor introduces a Jazz element before a return to descant for the sparkling ending.
A short improvisatory passage for the soloist, marked Freely, opens the Bassoon Sonata’s first movement before the piano interrupts and introduces the main Allegro inquieto. A calmer episode forms the centre of an arch structure, the free solo opening leading directly to the Lento which although calm and expressive reaches a dramatic climax. Busy figuration opens the final Giocoso, an energetic Rondo.
“Tallis Remembered” is a delicious miniature for recorder, clarinet and piano. It is based on Tallis’s well-known canon, and was inspired by Wendy Cope’s poem that reflects upon it; a very personal meditation, the text of which as presented in the CD booklet. The music in turn captures its essence.
A request by John Turner for a solo piece for treble recorder resulted in “A Walk with my dog, Molly”. Various events on the way are introduced by a narrator (here the composer’s wife Pam) and expressed with descriptive musical episodes that features a rather “bluesy” ritornello that forms the final sleepy coda.
Having been present at the first performances of three of the sonatas, this fine recording, featuring the musicians who gave them, is a reminder of the impression the music made at the time. Presenting them all together, and with very attractive art work on the booklet cover, is a very welcome release from the ever-enterprising Divine Art label.