Simplicius – John Hawkins – CC6045
£9.99 – £23.99
“This exciting new recording focuses on music featuring the clarinet written over a period of fifty years by UK composer John Hawkins”
“… clearly the work of a distinguished musician who obviously has things to say and who knows how to say them in accessible, communicative terms likely to appeal to larger audiences without ever compromising or writing down to them …’
Simplicius Simplicissimus (2018) was the result of reading Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen’s seventeenth century novel about a village simpleton caught up in the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. Thomas Mann wrote of it: ‘Gaudy, wild, raw, amusing, rollicking and ragged, boiling with life, on intimate terms with death and evil – but in the end, contrite and fully tired of a world wasting itself in blood, pillage and lust’. The music begins in an uncertain pastoral mood, becoming more troubled and violent as we follow Simplicius’s path. In the coda there is the briefest possible recollection of times past.
The tale was also made into an opera by Karl Hartmann in 1934-1935.
The piece is dedicated to the memory of my friend Jim Underwood whose vivid translation of ‘The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus’ (Penguin Classics, 2018) introduced me to it.
The poem ‘The Dong with a Luminous Nose’ was written by Edward Lear in 1876. Seeming to be playful nonsense, it is in fact a poem of tragic love, loneliness and loss. Lear once confessed ‘I hardly enjoy any one thing on earth while it is present.’ As Jenny Uglow says in her great biography of Lear: ‘… the Dong is an outsider, in all senses, lonely and wild.… He wanders hopefully, without hope, in a desperate refusal to despair.’
The music, written in 2018, calls for great virtuosity and feeling from both voice and clarinet as the Dong pursues ‘… a fiery spark/ A lonely spark with silvery rays/ Piercing the coal-black night …’ through to the poem’s sad ending:
Yonder — over the plain he goes;
The Dong with a luminous Nose!
The complete text can be found here at:
In Touch, a trio for clarinet, cello and piano’ (2016) is in three movements. In the first, ‘Touching In’, the music is by turns tentative and assertively lyrical. In the second, ‘Don’t Touch’, a romance (perhaps) is frustrated by dissociated harmonies and violent interruptions. In the third, ’Touch and Go’, roles are reversed and the rapid toccata is interrupted by fruitless attempts at lyricism.
The Clarinet Sonata was written between 1969 and 1972, before and after my first lessons with Malcolm Williamson and shows my influences at the time. It is in three short movements – fast, slow, fast – and as a young clarinettist I could almost play it!
The Concerto for Clarinet and Strings followed soon after the Sonata. It was first played in 1972 in London with the City Lit. string orchestra from whom, with their conductor, the violinist Denis East, I learned a lot about writing for strings. As this clarinet part was well beyond me, it was Denis East who suggested that the distinguished clarinettist Daphne Down might be kind enough to give the first performance. Recently, Steve Dummer persuaded me that the concerto was worth reviving and, nearly fifty years after the first performance, gave the second, with the Musicians of All Saints in Lewes in 2017. There are three movements, the last of which hints at my early enthusiasm for jazz.
Steve Dummer was a student of the late, great clarinettist Jack Brymer and now gives regular concerts throughout the UK and in sessions for radio and television. He is also a conductor, educator and all-round enthusiast for participation in music making at every level. He is musical director of Kidenza, founder and musical director of both Talkestra and Stane Street Sinfonietta, a regular tutor and conductor at Dartington International Summer and a member of the great Speakeasy Revival Orchestra.
Stane Street Sinfonietta (leader: Sophie Mather) is an exciting new professional ensemble, set up by Steve Dummer in collaboration with composer John Woolrich, which brings together virtuoso musicians from Sussex who regularly play with this country’s principal orchestras including the LPO, RPO, LSO, Philharmonia and CBSO.
Stane Street is the Roman Road that linked Noviomagus Reginoram (Chichester) to Londinium (London) and is, metaphorically speaking, the same road the players often take on their way to work.
The Japanese pianist Yoko Ono is much in demand as a soloist and chamber musician, performing in Europe, Japan, China and USA. She has given recitals in major venues including the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan and National Concert Hall in Dublin, receiving critical acclaim. Living in UK, she studied at the Royal Academy of Music winning various prizes and scholarships and now enjoys teaching at the Royal College of Music, Junior department.
UK based ‘cellist Ivana Peranic completed her cello studies at the Music Academy Sarajevo and Trinity College of Music. Ivana served as principal cellist for the Sarajevo Philharmonic and Balkan Chamber Orchestra, and performed in venues across Europe and Japan. She teaches at the Chichester Conservatoire of Music, and lives in Brighton where she freelances as a performer and teacher.
British bass-baritone Aidan Smith studied at the Guildhall school of Music, The Royal Academy of Music and The National Opera Studio. He frequently works for all the major national opera companies and was Welsh National Opera’s Associate Artist in 2014 for 2 seasons. He currently enjoys a varied career on both the operatic stage and in concert halls internationally.
John Hawkins (b. 1949) began writing music when very young and continued to write throughout 40 years’ work with book publisher Thames & Hudson. He studied composition with Malcolm Williamson and Elisabeth Lutyens. Large-scale works include a trilogy about the sea: ‘Sea Symphony’ (which had BBC broadcasts by both the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Scottish); ‘Voices from the Sea’ (tenor and string orchestra) and ‘The Seafarer’ (tenor, choir and chamber orchestra}. Broadcasts include ‘Urizen’ for viola and piano, ‘Variations’ for piano and ‘This World’ for choir and two trumpets (BBC Singers). ‘Urizen’ is based on one of William Blake’s figures. A continuing love of Blake’s work has prompted more compositions including the song cycle ‘Portions of Eternity’ and the string quartet ‘Fuzon’.
This recording focuses on John Hawkins’ music featuring the clarinet, written over fifty years, beginning with the most recent (‘Simplicius Simplicissimus’) and working backwards to early pieces, including the concerto.
Performances in 2019 included: ‘Sonata Serenata’ for flute and piano, ‘Lost in Translation’ for piano, ‘Disturbed Nights’ for solo flute, ‘Looking Back’ and ‘Cortège?’ for violin and piano, ‘Seven into Eight’ for string quartet and ‘Grounds’ for oboe and string orchestra.
John Hawkins is married with three children and lives in Lewes, East Sussex. He is a member of the composers’ association New Music Brighton.
Thanks to Colin Attwell who recorded and produced all three sessions with such skill and understanding. Thanks to the Nicholas Yonge Society and East Sussex College for the kind loan of their Grotrian Steinweg piano. The cover image is a detail from a painting by Leo Hawkins.
This exciting new recording focuses on music featuring the clarinet written over a period of fifty years by
UK composer John Hawkins. Beginning with the most recent (‘Simplicius Simplicissimus’) the list works
back to early pieces, including a virtuoso concerto for clarinet and string orchestra. As well as the
orchestral works, the CD includes chamber music with both piano and ‘cello.
John Hawkins’ large-scale works include a trilogy about the sea including a ‘Sea Symphony’ which had
BBC broadcasts by both the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Orchestra.
Other BBC broadcasts have included ‘Urizen’ for viola and piano, ‘Variations’ for piano and ‘This World’
for choir and two trumpets (BBC Singers).
Soloist Steve Dummer, clarinet, was a student of the late, great Jack Brymer and now gives
regular concerts throughout the UK and in sessions for radio and television. He is also a
conductor and educator, as musical director of Kidenza, and founder and musical director of
both Talkestra and Stane Street Sinfonietta. He is a regular tutor and conductor at Dartington
Some reviews of John Hawkins’s music:
‘A name to remember’ (Gramophone)
‘. . . a wealth of opportunities, readily seized, for economical but effective musico-dramatic gestures….
All make their evocative points in an instant.’ (The Observer)
“… clearly the work of a distinguished musician who obviously has things to say and who knows how to
say them in accessible, communicative terms likely to appeal to larger audiences without ever
compromising or writing down to them …’ (MusicWeb International)
‘… academic complexities do not trouble the ear, which is constantly entertained and alternately
assuaged and assaulted by an endlessly fascinating stream of sounds.’ (Music and Musicians)
‘Hawkins has a gift for creating miniatures which have a heft and resonance well beyond their modest
duration’ (Musical Opinion)