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From 1947 the young composer was a regular visitor to the newly founded Cheltenham Festival, where he made friends with such illuminati as Britten, Alan Rawsthorne, Michael Tippett and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Awarded the Walford Davies Prize for Composition at the age of twenty-four, he was already well established as a composer in his native Wales.
Now in his mid-twenties, Alun Hoddinott achieved a breakthrough soon after postwar austerity ended with the arrival of a new Elizabethan age: his opus 3 (numerous juvenilia having been withdrawn), the fifteen-minute Clarinet Concerto (dubbed by someone 'a cutely classical cocktail fizzed up with a jazzy mixer'), was performed at the 1954 Cheltenham Festival by the superlative Gervase de Peyer, with Sir John Barbirolli conducting.
Following that heady success the concerto was repeated under Sir Malcolm Sargent at the next year's BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The work's fluent neoclassical style has made it a continued favourite, and a new disc was recently issued of it, with the clarinettist Robert Plane as soloist.
Copyright © 15 April 2008
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK