BLACKFORD Better Angels
Having made his reputation in film and television, Richard Blackford (b1954) later enjoyed success with several major choral works. Instrumental music has only recently come to the fore in his output, but those works featured here leave little doubt as to his prowess in more abstract genres. Written in just five weeks, the Violin Concerto (2007) combines lithe neoclassicism with, in its central Andante, sombre elegance underpinned by a Russian chant that informs its melodic contours. An appealing piece and finely played by Maria Gajdosova; but the Clarinet Quintet (2009) is more engrossing in the way that its three movements outline an ultimately tragic narrative drawn from Caradog Pritchard’s novel Full Moon – hauntingly realised here.
Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address, The Better Angels of Our Nature (2013) moves from a sombre introduction, via an Allegro of mounting anxiety, to an interlude in which the Taps fanfare is intoned hauntingly by the oboist before a slow movement whose fraught tranquillity amply evokes the title. Emily Pailthorpe brings poise and eloquence to music written with her artistry in mind, and is no less inside the two pieces of Goodfellow (2015). Shakespeare’s Puck is duly made focal point of a hectic tour across A Midsummer Night’s Dream where flute, oboe and piano enact a scenario as engaging as it is whimsical.
Better Angels was previously released on a Champs Hill ‘portrait’ of Pailthorpe but here finds a rather more effective context. The sound is unexceptionally fine in each case, and this release further consolidates Blackford’s standing as an accessible yet never facile composer.