Toccata Classics has already released the first volume of Steve Elcock’s orchestral works. This collection of chamber music provides another facet to this composer’s intriguing music. As a composer, Elcock’s a recent discovery. For years he worked his day job, composing in his leisure time and filing his pieces away.
Unaffected by the demands of the professional music world, Elcock developed a tonal style that is remarkably original and appealing.
The majority of works on this release feature the clarinet. Elcock writes well for the instrument, taking advantage of the instrument’s strengths and tonal qualities. The Clarinet Sextet, Op. 11b is a fine showcase for the instrument. Written for clarinet and string quintet, the work has a good-natured feel to it. Some of the passages reminded me of Malcolm Arnold.
The Shed Dances for clarinet and string trio is a set of six short dances. The names of the movements indicate their playful nature: Disgruntled Waltz, Leaden clog dance, Rampant scavenger, etc. The Veles Ensemble delivers, making this an enjoyable work through and through.
Elcock’s String Trio No. 1 takes a different tack. The work begins in dissonance and gradually works towards consonance. To my ears, the opening reminded me of Bartok — though the resolution is pure Elcock.
An Outstretched Hand for flute, clarinet, and piano quartet is the most serious work on the album. Partially inspired by the refugee crises, this 2015 work has a somber, unsettled feel. This is a mature work by a mature composer. This is the music of emotion, and Elcock communicates that emotion quite effectively.
The composer provides quite detailed liner notes with this release. In addition to providing background for each piece, he also provides in-depth analysis. There are a generous amount of musical examples provided as well.
Elcock’s music stands on its own merits. You can enjoy these works without knowing a thing about them. But I encourage you to read the liner notes carefully and study the musical examples. If you’re like me, it will lead to a deeper appreciation of Elcock’s artistry.
Steve Elcock: Chamber Music, Vol. 1
Clarinet Sextet, Op. 11b, for clarinet and string quintet; String Trio No. 1, Op. 8b; The Shed Dances, Op. 26b, for clarinet and string trio; An Outstretched Hand, Op. 24, for flute, clarinet and piano quartet
The Veles Ensemble
Toccata Classics TOPCC 0506