Monday 12 August 2019

Helen Habershon - Found in Winter

Helen Habershon - Found in Winter
Helen Habershon Found in Winter; Helen Habershon, John Anderson, Andrew Fuller, John Lenehan, London Primavera Orchestra, Anthony Halstead; Divine Art
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 July 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
The evocative and approachable musical world of clarinettist / composer Helen Habershon

Composer and clarinettist Helen Habershon came to composing quite late and rather by accident. Having broken both her wrists she was unable to play the clarinet for a few months, but was allowed to play the piano and started writing music. She released her first album in 2009, both it and her second album were Album of the Month on Classic FM. She has now released her third album, Found in Winter on Divine Art, which contains a selection of orchestral and instrumental works performed by Habershon herself, John Anderson (oboe), Andrew Fuller (cello), John Lenehan (piano) and the London Primavera Orchestra, conductor Anthony Halstead.

The album's title seems to be intended as generically evocative rather than particularly descriptive, and whilst there are Winter themed pieces on the programme such as the engaging opener Winter Arrives, there are also pieces which Habershon describes as reflecting 'the winter of mankind', notably Requiem - Anna Akhmatova and the Pushkin-inspired The Bronze Horseman. But over all the album seems more a collection of recent pieces than one exploring a particular theme.

In style the music is flowing and melodic, often with quite an open textures and works such as Winter Arrives have an attractive rhythmic impulse. You can see why the music is popular on Classic FM as it is engaging and approachable with an instinctive feel to the melodic lines. All the works on the disc have been arranged by John Lenehan, so I am not certain how much is Habershon and how much Lenahan but the results are always attractively appealing with some imaginative touches to the orchestration.

Habershon's inspiration seldom takes her to the darker side and even the Anna Akhmatova inspired piece rarely, if ever, plumbs the depths. Her evocation of Pushkin's The Bronze Horseman,written for just clarinet (Habershon), cello (Fuller) and piano (Lenahan) comes closer, perhaps because it is not afraid of stripping things back and the work opens with the solo clarinet evoking the mud-flats of the Neva.

This is perhaps an album to dip into rather than listen from beginning to end. In terms of style, I am not sure that the term cross-over is particularly helpful here, and perhaps we need to resurrect the rather neglected term light-music.

Helen Habershon - Found in Winter
Winter Arrives [5:21]
Far out in the Ocean [3:31]
Farewell Ice (2018) [7:09]
Requiem – Anna Akhmatova [10:50]
Found in the Rain [2:40]
The Bronze Horseman [11:30]
Peace [5:10]
Before Time Began [5:15]
Day of Judgement [9:19]
All pieces arranged and orchestrated by John Lenehan
Helen Habershon (clarinet)
John Anderson (oboe)
Andrew Fuller (cello)
John Lenehan (piano) London Primavera Orchestra
Anthony Halstea (conductor)
Recorded 29 September 2018, St Paul’s School, London
DIVINE ART DDA25191 1CD [60:49]
Support Planet Hugill by buying this album from Amazon.

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