American Record Guide

Peter Hope (born 1930) is an English composer and arranger of songs who also writes occasional accompaniment for radio and other commercial endeavors. His music is tuneful, harmonically lush or pungent as appropriate but always comfortingly tonal, unpretentious, and likable—all these qualities enhanced by his characteristic use of vernacular dance rhythms. I didn’t find any string quartets or symphonies by Hope on recordings, and I don’t know whether he’s ventured into such more ambitious genres. But he appears on a half-dozen or so CDs, including a collection of his serenades, dance sequences, and divertimentos for smallish ensembles on Dutton 7192 that Paul Cook liked (M/J 2008), finding them akin to Malcolm Arnold’s efforts for similar forces. Hope also shows up on various anthologies of orchestral “English light music” This new release of Hope’s recent music on Divine Art includes four sonatas for wind instruments: one each for oboe, clarinet, recorder, and bassoon, each with piano and cast in three well-contrasted movements, with lengths from 11 to 15 minutes. Two short items fill out the program: Tallis Remembered for clarinet, recorder, and piano and A Walk with my Dog, Molly for speaker and recorder. Alle¬gros are light-footed and breezy, with many (sometimes whimsical) borrowings from popular styles; moderatos and andantes are lilting and pastoral, some shaded with wistful melancholy, some interweaving more active dance interludes into the slower tempos.

A good portion of this music is quite fetching—for example, the 5-minute first movement of the clarinet sonata; much of it is clever; and all of it is shapely, idiomatic, and ingratiating. The piano writing and exchanges between accompaniment and solo instrument are models of clarity and effectiveness; listen, for instance, to the sparkling interplay in the oboe sonata’s vivace or the tender central section of clarinet sonata’s scherzo that hauntingly recalls (could this be intentional?) the gorgeous clarinet sonatina of Douglas Lilburn. And there’s plenty of variety, as Hope obviously enjoys displaying his versatility; why else would he finish off the clarinet sonata with a klezmer-style portrait of ‘The Clarinetist on the Roof’ that first dances, then muses quietly in the darkness? Performances are sensitive and polished and sonics clear, clean, and realistic. Wind players and listeners drawn to their repertoire will find much of interest in these unpretentious and enjoyable sonatas.

—Mark Lehman