This release features a well-balanced program of clarinet chamber works by Ruth Gipps. It includes a solo work, some pieces for clarinet and piano, a clarinet quintet, and a major work for clarinet, oboe, and string quartet. If you’re not familiar with Ruth Gipps, here’s a brief introduction. She was a child prodigy, composing and playing piano in concerts at age eight.
Gipps also became an accomplished oboist and conductor. She founded three orchestras and chaired the Composer’s Guild of Great Britain. And she wrote over 80 works.
Gipps’ music has traces of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ English pastoral style. By the 1950s this was considered hopelessly old-fashioned. But she was her own woman. Gipps wrote music to her own high standards, regardless of fashion. Listening to these compositions a half-century later, I think it was the right decision.
Her professional knowledge of both piano and oboe comes into play in the music on this release. She understood the mechanics of wind instruments. Her phrases can be long and drawn out, but always within the limits of proper breath support.
The piano is often an equal partner with the clarinet. This leads to some interesting interplays between the instruments.
Peter Cigleris plays with a rich, controlled tone. In the upper registers, his clarinet sounds bright, but never shrill. And his phrasing sounds as natural as breathing.
My favorite works were the Rhapsody in E-flat for Clarinet Quintet, and the Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, and String Trio. Gipps’s string writing has a warmth to it I really enjoy. And her chord voicings have an Englishness to them that’s hard to describe, but easy to hear.
The Rhapsody is gorgeous. It reminds me of the phantasies of Herbert Howells and John Ireland.
The Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, and String Trio has a more sophisticated sound. Gipps played the oboe and places t two wind instruments in equal balance.
The texture is thinner than the Rhapsody. And the English folk elements are less pronounced. This is well-crafted music. It should be appearing in chamber music concerts more often than it does (which is close to never).
Ruth Gipps’ legacy is well-served with this release.
Dedication: The Clarinet Chamber Music of Ruth Gipps
Peter Cigleris, clarinet
Gareth Huls, oboe; Duncan Honeybourne, piano; Tippet Quartet