This selection of Hugh Wood's chamber music with piano ranges across almost the whole 50-year span of his composing career. The later music is more broad-minded than the earlier pieces – there are unashamed tonal references and traditional thematic development juxtaposed with the 12-note procedures – but the special combination of intellectual rigour and emotional directness that seems to energise each note has remained intact. Both the Piano Trio of 1984 and the Clarinet Trio from 13 years later represent Wood at his ebullient best, while the Poem for violin and piano, and the clarinet-and-piano paraphrase of his setting of Robert Graves's poem Bird of Paradise, are inevitably slighter, but wonderfully fluent.Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 1/21/2010
[Hugh Wood’s music] is as profoundly, enduringly satisfying as the work of any other living British composer. In all these pieces – ranging over the whole of Wood’s long career – we find craftsmanship raised to the highest level, a love of tradition that liberates rather than restricts the imagination, combined with a tender, yet exquisitely contained poetic sensitivity.
One might be tempted to compare Wood with Brahms as a modern Classical-Romantic, yet there are times when the passion leaps off the page in very un-Brahmsian ways, such as the ardent neo-tonal opening of the Poem or the expressionist love-song that emerges from the early stages of the Overture. Expressively, technically and in terms of formal understanding these performances are excellent. Highly recommended.
Performance: [five stars]
Recording: [five stars]
Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine, 5/1/2010
Hugh Wood writes music in an avowedly post-Schoenbergian vein though its earnest combination of intellectual rigour and lyrical revelation reflects the inspiration of Brahms and his forebears.
The most direct, sheerly beautiful offering, and the one with the biggest diatonic component, is the Poem for violin and piano written in 1993…With the piano relegated to an accompanying role, the violin embraces both Stravinsky’s white-note declamation and the 12-note melodic writing of his antipode, ultimately soaring impressionistically, a Lark Ascending. The sense of tranquility is earned.
David Gutman, Gramophone Magazine, 7/1/2010