Thursday, 28 February 2008

Gordon Jacob: ‘On a Summer Evening’


Gordon Jacob is one of lesser known, of the great British composers. A brief look at his catalogue shows a wide variety of genres – including symphonies, concertos and chamber works. However it is one of the composer’s very short works that recently caught my eye and ear.
Jacob’s miniature ‘vignette’ for flute and piano ‘On a Summer Evening’ is absolutely everything one could wish for – except that it would be longer. It is an idealized view of that wonderful season: we can almost feel Matthew Arnold’s “all the live murmur of a summer’s day.”
Jacob latterly lived in the Essex countryside at Saffron Walden and apparently appreciated the landscape in all its seasonal varieties. However, the irony of this work is that it was composed on a cold January day in 1972. As a piece it is far removed from much that was written at that time. It is broadly speaking a tonal, romantic work that makes the listener feel good about life and the English landscape. It certainly evoked a number of lovely romantic thoughts in my head as I listened to this on a rarely warm and sunny day in February in 2008.
The flautist Rachel Smith has recorded it on Campion 2030

Rachel Smith playing On a Summer Evening

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