James Hook: Piano Concerto in D-major and Clarinet Concerto in E-flat major

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James Hook (1746 - 1827) English composer
Work: Piano Concerto in D-major, Op. 1, No.5 (c.1771)
Pianist / Conductor: Paul Nicholson
Orchestra: The Parley of Instruments

Mov.I: Allegro con spirito 00:00
Mov.II: Andante 07:10
Mov.III: Rondo: Allegro 10:21

Work: Clarinet Concerto in E-flat major (1812)
Clarinet: Colin Lawson
Orchestra: The Parley of instruments
Conductor: Peter Holman

Mov.I: Allegro 00:00
Mov.II: Adagio 11:22
Mov.III: Rondo: Allegretto 14:25

James Hook's clarinet concerto was never published. It survives in the composer's autograph score, once in the collection of W H Cummings and now in the Nanki Library, Tokyo. It is dated 1812 and was probably written for the concerts at Vauxhall Gardens; Hook was resident organist and composer there for forty-six summers, from 1774 until 1820. The work is still basically in the galant style, though the clarinet-writing is much more elaborate and wide-ranging than Mahon's, with frequent forays into the chalumeau register, and the slow movement has a Beethovenian sense of drama, contrasting severe string tuttis with more mellifluous solos in a way that is oddly similar to the slow movement of Beethoven's fourth piano concerto. Hook returned to a more conventional and old-fashioned idiom for the virtuoso finale, though there are some pleasing and original textures in the last episode, where the clarinet's arpeggios accompany a series of village band imitations in the orchestra.

James Hook was born in Norwich in 1746 and came to London in the early 1760s, quickly becoming a prolific and successful composer in theatres, public concerts and pleasure gardens. He was the first English composer to write keyboard concertos in the full-blown galant style popularized in England by J C Bach's Op 1 (1763) and Op 7 (1770). Hook published his Op 1 soon after, probably in 1771, and followed J C Bach in laying them out 'for Harpsichord or Forte-Piano' with parts for two violins and bass. However, there are a number of places in the outer movements of the Hook D major Concerto that seem to call for more varied colours, so I have provided parts for flutes and horns, using as a model the wind parts that survive in manuscript for some of J C Bach's Op 7, or the ad libitum parts for flutes and horns in some of the Philip Hayes concertos. Hook was a notable early exponent of the piano and is known to have played a concerto on one in 1768. The earliest English pianos were small squares, but around 1770 Americus Backers began to make more powerful grands. The D major Concerto is an accomplished and expansive work, with a delightful slow movement in cavatina style with pizzicato accompaniment, and a rondo in the fashionable Scots idiom, with strong hints of bagpipes.