By Joshua Cheek
Gordon Jacob had a special affinity for wind instruments. Born in the same generation of British composers as Vaughan-Williams, Ireland, Howells and Bax, Gordon Jacob soon departed from the ripe romanticism of his teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford and embraced a simpler, more direct musical language, inspired in part by Baroque and Classical models but with an accessible, modernist perspective.
Jacob’s first work for recorder was the Suite for Recorder and Strings, written on commission from Carl Dolmetsch. The work was an immediate success with audiences and performers alike and Jacob was soon established as one of the première composers for the instrument. It was in preparation for a performance of this suite that Michala Petri first met Jacob:
“I went to visit him in Saffron Walden, a beautiful little town where he lived with his wife, Margaret. He was very old at that time, and was an incredibly friendly man, with a very positive, quiet and reassuring nature. I went mainly to get his opinion of how I played his Suite, which I was to record with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. After playing him the Suite I asked him whether he could possibly write something for me to play with harpsichord.
Some time later, the original hand written manuscript for the Sonatina, written in shaky but careful handwriting, came in the mail. I still have the original score at home. Also, he sent the little Encore (also known as “Duettino”), as he thought it was special that I could sing and play at the same time.”