Although born in Germany, Franz Reizenstein lived in England from 1934 until his death in 1968. In his adopted country he made a significant contribution to musical life, both as a splendid pianist and as an accomplished and admired composer, as well as a greatly respected teacher. He studied with Vaughan Williams as well as with Hindemith and developed an impressively distinctive style. Although he wrote several large-scale orchestral works, possibly his greatest achievements as a composer are to be found in his extensive series of chamber works, notably the outstanding Piano Quintet and the Violin Sonata in G sharp. Early in his career, Reizenstein wrote a Sonatina for oboe and piano, and at the time of his sudden death he was working on a companion piece, a Sonatina for clarinet and piano, two movements of which were completed. They were published posthumously and, as is sometimes the case in such circumstances, the two movements make an effective work by themselves. Thea King gave the premiere of the Sonatina.
Arabesques (in spite of the plural title, the work is in one short movement), also for clarinet and piano, likewise dates from Reizenstein’s prolific last year and might have been a forerunner of the Sonatina. Arabesques forms a striking and imaginative piece in ABA form, A being a truly arabesque-like phrase in 3/4, initially stated by the clarinet, centred upon B flat major. This is much developed and extended, and the central section, Poco più mosso, is a less florid theme in 12/8 which turns in and around itself via F sharp minor and B, from which the clarinet returns to the opening. The reprise is not strict and builds to a finely controlled climax from which the music gradually descends, all passion spent, to an unalloyed B flat major. The clarinet’s high pianissimo B flat is particularly magical and slowly the curtain is drawn on this haunting and fastidiously written short study.
from notes by Howard Ferguson and Robert Matthew-Walker © 1997