Gramophone

This is – I believe – the first commercial recording of music by Kevin Raftery (b1952), an expatriate American composer (born in St. Louis) who has lived and worked in London since 1989. A pupil of Fricker (at Berkeley) and Justin Connolly (who had studied with Fricker in London) at the Royal Academy of Music, Raftery is a practical musician, member of the New London Chamber Choir, jobbing bassoonist and director of the Richmond Concert Society.

His sombre, single-span First Quartet (2012, a Second was completed this year) is a memorial for a quartet-loving friend. Its concentrated single span seems both an expression of their lively discussions and a coming to terms with the loss. First Companion (also from 2012) is a quartet for clarinet, bassoon, violin and viola designed to accompany Schubert’s Octet and the Septets of Beethoven and Stravinsky in concert programmes. Its lighter, garrulous discourse also alludes to The Canterbury Tales; a group sharing stories along a journey. Pleasantries (2011), by contrast, is a set of nine ‘whimsical’ miniatures for oboe doubling cor anglais, clarinet, bass clarinet and bassoon, many dedicated to past American composers. The Freidhof Quintet (2011, for flute, harp and string trio) is again a memorial, to Raftery’s mother, who died in
2010.

This is a most worthwhile disc of fine, well-made chamber music by a composer largely unknown to the wider world. Métier has a tradition in this, as with its Jane Wells disc from 2000 (and still available – just!). Nicely clear, warm sound as usual from this label.

—Guy Rickards