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Clarinet Quintet


Arnold Cooke is less wild than Maconchy; but then he is not (unlike Maconchy and Howells and Josef Holbrooke) a Celt. His music is more soberly classical in outlook and reflects the strict contrapuntal disciplines of his teacher Hindemith (a year older than Maconchy, Cooke, like her, felt that in statu pupillari he needed more than the English musical Establishment of the day was able to offer). Cooke’s rigorous approach to his craft is unlikely to create glamour of texture or cosmetic charm of any kind; its strength is pre-eminently in line, in integrity of line and form. He would surely agree with Blake, who saw line as energy, as the signature of life: ‘How do we distinguish one face or countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its infinite inflexions and movements? What is it that distinguishes honesty from knavery but the hard and wiry line of rectitude and certainty in the actions and intentions? Leave out this line and you leave out life itself … all is chaos again …’ It must be said that hardness and wiriness of line, if carried to excess, is apt to head to dryness; but in Cooke’s music, as in the best of Hindemith, a nicely-judged lyrical element softens and refreshes.

from notes by Christopher Palmer © 1991


Clarinet Quintets

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