Hope is best known as a composer of light music — his Ring Of Kerry is palatable and easy to listen to, so easy that it was used as test card music back in the day (you can find anything on YouTube). Petit Point is similar, the kind of music Monty Python would use in a spoof travelogue. He has also written a recorder concerto and arranged the music for the 2003 Spanish royal wedding, and does more serious pieces. This is somewhere in the middle.
The first time we played it through we thought the review would be a doddle; instantly appealing light music that was pleasant and entertaining. But then, the more it was played the harder it got; it’s possible that as soon as this is written it will go back to being appealing.
All the biographies say he wrote a theme for the BBC news, though we’ve not been able to track it down so can’t hum it to you, but his music has the quality that stands repeated plays without being annoying, then when you actually listen to it, it’s not as it seems. Mind you, Hope probably never wrote it to be listened to over and over on repeat by someone trying to think of something to say. Wheel it out for the odd play, and it’s an entertaining and fresh collection of pieces.
The strapline is “sonatas for wind instruments” and the opening piece is Sonata For Oboe And Piano, commissioned by the Ida Carroll Trust in memory of Lady Barbirolli and first performed at the Bridgewater Hall in 2009. It’s quite a lively piece; the third movement, the allegro, being rather jazzy — Hope played in a semi-pro band in his teens.
The second track is Sonata For Clarinet And Piano, again commissioned by the Ida Carroll Trust for the opening of the Ida Carroll Walkway at the Royal Northern College of Music. We’ve reviewed a piece written for the M6 before but never a walkway. This piece is generally at a slower pace; the walkway offers views and is perhaps used for reflection, though the third movement, The Clarinettist On The Roof, opens with an eastern sound. We thought it was calling the faithful to prayer but it’s a different religion, as Hope says it has a klezmer feel, that being music in the Jewish tradition played by professional musicians called klezmorim. It’s dance music for weddings and celebrations and evolved in the US to assimilate jazz. The Jewish roots become clearer as this lively movement plays out.
Elsewhere on the CD is Tallis Remembered for clarinet, recorder and piano, a charming and gentle piece inspired by Wendy Cope’s poem Tallis’s Canon, provided in the liner notes: “One of the things I’d like to do again / Before I die is sing Tallis’s Canon”.
The closing piece is A Walk With My Dog Molly, a novelty tune written for a family pet, complete with spoken part section (“Come on, Molly, walkies!”) with the recorder describing the dog, slow and nonchalant as she waltzes out for the walk, more fevered as she runs for the ball, gets distracted, has a sniff and scampers off. It’s half endearing, half annoying, wisely placed last.
The album itself is endearing, too, and we guess some sections could be used as test pieces by practitioners of the instruments used. Out now on Divine Art: DDA25137. The sleeve is very nice, too.
Hopefully, you can buy here: