Janet Hilton, Flying Solo: Music for Solo Clarinet

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2020.60.rev.11463

Damon Sink

Flying SoloFlying Solo: Music for Solo Clarinet. 2016. Janet Hilton, clarinet. London: Clarinet and Saxophone Classics 0072. Contents: M. Arnold, Fantasy; E. Roxburgh, Wordsworth Miniatures; O. Messaien, “Abîme des Oiseaux” from Quatuor pour la fin du temps; M. Turnage, 2 Memorials; G. Crosse, A Year and A Day for Clarinet Alone, Op. 48A; L. Berkeley, Three Pieces for Clarinet; I. Stravinsky, Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo; R. Rodney Bennett, Sonatina for Clarinet Solo; L. Cahuzac, Arlequin; H. Tomasi, Sonatine Attique; J. Mayer, Sargam. 23 tracks (78:01). https://samekmusic.com/shop/flying-solo. CD and full MP3 download, £6.50

English Clarinetist Janet Hilton has enjoyed a truly remarkable career. Currently serving on faculty at the Royal College of Music (London), she has worked as a renowned soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player, distinguished teacher and recording artist. Hilton has performed throughout the world and has recorded extensively on labels including: Chandos, ASV, EMI, BBC Classics, Clarinet Classics and Naxos. Additional biographical information can be found at https://www.rcm.ac.uk/woodwind/professors/details/?id=01109

In celebration of her 50 years of performing on an international stage, Hilton released her 2016 recording, Flying Solo on Clarinet Classics. This recording includes solo clarinet literature spanning some 80 years, the earliest composition being “Three Pieces” by Stravinsky dating from 1919, and the most recent being the first movement, “Trier” from Turnage’s “Two Memorials” composed in 2000. It is interesting to note that Hilton has included a work from nearly every decade spanning 1919-2000! Being one of today’s best-known English clarinetists, it is fitting that Hilton has included six English works in her collection. The recording includes several standard solos from the clarinet repertoire likely known to American clarinetists and clarinet enthusiasts by Stravinsky, Messaien, Arnold, Tomasi, Cahuzac and Bennett; and some wonderful works that may be new to listeners outside of England by Berkeley, Crosse, Mayer, Roxburgh, and Turnage.

This seventy-eight-minute CD would be a wonderful addition to any clarinet enthusiast’s collection, containing an impressive catalogue of solo repertoire. The selections are very accessible and audience friendly, incorporating occasional flutter-tonguing and note bends. The styles hint at a variety of influences including blues (Turnage), ragtime (Stravinsky), commedia dell’Arte (Cahuzac), poetry of Wordsworth (Roxburg), nature (Messaien), mythology (Crosse) and Indian classical music (Mayer). Hilton’s playing is very musical with a wide palette of dynamic contrast and color. Hilton has a unique singing quality to her sound and is at her best with captivating playing at soft dynamics. She displays fluid technique and extreme care to detail throughout. It is obvious that these pieces are treasured gems to Hilton, and every note and gesture is polished with a purpose. The included liner notes speak volumes to Hilton’s admiration for each work and composer. While the recording quality suffers at times from distracting key-noise and an occasional air-leak at loud dynamics, the overall effect is quite successful and captures Hilton’s artistry and the spirit of this repertoire beautifully. Highlights include Hilton’s performances of works by Bennett (second movement in particular), Crosse and Arnold. The CD also contains the premier recording of the clarinet version of Turnage’s “Two Memorials.”

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Last modified on Monday, 11/05/2020

Anthony J. Costa

Anthony J. Costa is Associate Professor of Clarinet at Penn State and a member of the Pennsylvania Quintet and Prestige Clarinet Quartet. He serves as principal clarinetist with the Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra and Penn’s Woods Music Festival Orchestra; and is an artist-clinician for the Buffet-Crampon Corp. 

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