‘This richly rewarding release presents music featuring the clarinet by John Hawkins … Simplicius Simplicissimus (2018) is a cogently argued and naturally eloquent single-movement work for clarinet and strings, directly communicative and expertly structured.
The heartfelt and constantly inventive treatment for baritone and clarinet of Edward Lear’s The Dong with a Luminous Nose (2018) is a superb example of Hawkins’s keen ear for setting texts.
Fluent and widely expressive, In Touch, for clarinet, cello and piano (2016) shows the composer’s innate understanding of the importance of meaningful discourse between the instruments in chamber music.
The compact and gloriously melodic Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1969-72) is a fine contribution to the genre and the Concerto for Clarinet and Strings, which also dates from the early 1970s, is a thoroughly delightful piece, lucid and lyrical with an infectiously jazzy finale.
Performances are uniformly excellent and the recording quality is exemplary. Highly recommended. *****
‘… academic complexities do not trouble the ear, which is constantly entertained and alternately assuaged and assaulted by an endlessly fascinating stream of sounds, atmospheric rather than specific in their depiction of the sea in various moods’
MUSIC AND MUSICIANS
Voices from the Sea CD
‘… a stunning song cycle’
THE STRAD December 2003
‘… finely pointing the drama of the texts without recourse to obvious word-painting, and easing into refrains of exceptional beauty.’
‘… a name to remember … These evocative settings show that Hawkins has the now rare gift of being able to write vocal lines grateful to the voice, where leaping intervals slip naturally and movingly into the lyrical sequence – especially when sung with such intensity and variety of vocal colour as here by Martyn Hill … a highly enticing debut CD for Hawkins.’
GRAMOPHONE May 2004
‘Brilliant … both the vocal writing and string layout were superb.’
H.C. ROBBINS LANDON
‘The whole cycle is a beautifully varied, contrasted, and often moving achievement … magnificent … Hawkins’ sincere, honest and impeccably written music is 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 …’
‘Variations for piano’ is a minor masterpiece in its own right … that should appeal to any pianist willing to add an accessible modern work to his/her repertoire.
Hubert Culot MUSICWEB December ’03
‘What an enterprising CD this is with a great mixture of excellent music’
‘Excellently crafted … Hawkins’ word setting is superb … The texts, written by merchant seamen … are strikingly direct, and are telling in Martyn Hill’s sympathetic rendering and admirably clear articulation … this collection will give great pleasure to afficionados of 20th century British music.’
See the full Classical Net review of the ‘Voices from the Sea’ CD . . .
‘. . . a wealth of opportunities, readily seized, for economical but effective musico-dramatic gestures…. All make their evocative points in an instant.’
‘Echoes achieves a genuinely moving balance between bathos and emotion.’
‘Well-crafted with an assured economy of gesture, Fuzon is a welcome addition to the repertoire. All four members of the Piatti Quartet were suitably fiery in their response to Hawkins’s forthright but exacting score, tearing into its more vigorous sections with admirable gusto.
TEMPO, April 2013
Stranger, Lover, Dancer
‘Hawkins has a gift for creating miniatures which have a heft and resonance well beyond their modest duration’
MUSICAL OPINION, December 2016
‘… a late-twentieth-century musical gem. . . Immensely gratifying musically, the work is idiomatically appropriate for both viola and piano.’
‘John Hawkins’ Urizen is a haunting work composed with real passion and lyrical conviction.’
‘… keen-eared responses to the instrument’s potential for dark utterance through soulfully eloquent melody.’
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
‘Most solo-instrument passages bore me to death, but this grabs my attention…’
CLASSICAL NET 2007
‘Tautly-argued and endowed with sufficient incident to fuel a piece several times its length, ‘Palinode’ made a strong impression at its first performance…. It is to be hoped that this premiere and subsequent performances will bring Hawkins’s music, with its decided substance and sensibility, the attention it merits’.
TEMPO January 2012
‘… the two brief movements offer plentiful contrast, with an especially fast moving, even zany second movement to entertain the listener and stretch the performers.’ on A Tale of Two Violas. Meridian CDE84652
MUSICWEB-INTERNATIONAL June 2019
‘Taut and focussed, the Sonata Serenata by John Hawkins exploited different aspects of the flute’s character. The opening movement was songlike and confessional and contrasted an introspective, chromatic idea heard at the outset with more radiant and flowing lines. Opening with an eloquent, free-flowing flute solo, the slow central movement was passionate and insistent, while the waltz-like, jazz-inflected finale began in a mood of nostalgic warmth but soon developed considerable nervous energy and ended with a trenchant, climactic coda. This compact score conveyed worlds of meaning in a single gesture and both players seemed keenly aware of its concentrated expressive power.’
MUSICAL OPINION December 2019
‘… a variety of textures, attractive (but not prosaic) melodies, sophisticated harmonies and a few challenging rhythms.’
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MUSIC EDUCATION
‘… cleverly composed and often unpredictable…. Recommended.’
MUSIC TEACHER MAGAZINE