David Bruce: Gumboots; Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op 115

Reviewed on Thu 30 Jun, 2016

Taking inspiration from the chained-together boots worn by black miners in South Africa during the Apartheid years, David Bruce’s 2008 composition Gumboots is a work of two contrasting halves: an elegiac slow movement against five dances of increasingly energetic brevity.

Finding a contemporary piece to partner Brahms’s late Clarinet Quintet is not an easy task, but David Bruce’s 2008 composition Gumboots is successful both in that capacity and on its own terms. Taking inspiration from the chained-together boots worn by black miners in South Africa during the Apartheid years, it’s a work of two contrasting halves: an elegiac slow movement against five dances of increasingly energetic brevity. Julian Bliss and the Carducci Quartet weave their lines together with a sense of adventure, with Bliss clearly relishing his first exploration of the bass clarinet’s sonorities. Brahms’s quintet requires a lightness of touch in performance from all concerned and the work doesn’t come off too badly at all. If Bliss and the Carduccis don’t perform it with quite the sense of drama produced by Martin Fröst et al (BIS – reviewed by Rob Cowan on 1 August 2014), they certainly have a modern take on the Hamburg master that showcases their established camaraderie and musicianship. Atmospheric recorded sound; brief yet useful introductory notes are included.
–Evan Dickerson