Both composers featured here retain toeholds in the record catalogues; Somervell mostly with his songs, Jacob with some chamber music and orchestral works, in particular the attractive second symphony. This disc is as such extremely welcome, providing ample evidence that both are real composers who would deserve more thorough investigations. Somervell isn't the first to write a honeyed, mellow and slightly rustic clarinet quintet - something about the combination of clarinet and strings seems to invite that approach - but he succeeds admirably in creating a memorable and genuinely appealing work. This is music that echoes the English countryside in spring and summer, warm and smooth and with several beautiful tunes used with some skill and imagination. It is perhaps not a masterpiece by usual standards, but a thoroughly attractive work, strongly recommended to anyone even modestly attracted to that sort of thing.
Gordon Jacob belongs to a different generation of composers, of course, but even though his contribution is slightly more harmonically adventurous - but hardly more so than, say, Vaughan Williams at his lightest - with a certain neo-classical sensitivity and grace added to the proceedings, the atmosphere and mood is much the same as in the Somvervell. The music is rustic, melodic and admirably well written for the instruments. A beautiful work, not as strikingly tuneful as the Somervell, but equally appealing.
Not all of Thea King's recordings for Hyperion were as successful as this one, but there can be absolutely no doubt about the quality of these performances. The clarinet tone is warm and burnished and utterly appealing in both works, and the Aeolian quartet is admirably lustrous and glittering throughout. The sound is well-balanced and clear, and while this disc contains no genuine masterpiece, perhaps, it provided me with so much pleasure and enjoyment that I'm hard pressed to find any good reason to award it less than five stars.