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Charles Swinnerton Heap (1847-1900)
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano

The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano by Charles Swinnerton Heap was composed in 1879, and is a remarkable early example of the English clarinet sonata, probably only pre-dated by the unpublished sonata by Alice Mary Smith of 1870. It anticipates sonatas by his fellow countrymen, Prout, Tovey and Stanford and the great German sonatas by Brahms and Reger. Heap was born in Birmingham and studied from 1863 with E.G.Monk, organist of York Minster. In 1865 he became the second recipient of the Mendelssohn Scholarship, travelling to Leipzig to study with Moscheles, Reinecke, Hauptmann and E.F. Richter. He returned to Birmingham in 1867, and, in 1871, was awarded a doctorate from Cambridge. In 1870 the Birmingham Philharmonic Union was established and Heap was appointed as artistic director. Thenceforth he became a central figure in the musical life of Birmingham, as a conductor, performer and composer. Heap died unexpectedly in 1900 from pneumonia. As a composer he had been prolific, his oeuvre including sacred works and cantatas, organ pieces, works for piano solo and chamber works including the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano dedicated to ‘his
friend’ Henry Lazarus (1815-1895) and published by Breitkopf and Haertel in 1880.

Lazarus, the foremost clarinet player in England, performed at all of the Birmingham Triennial Festivals between 1840 and 1885, and, between 1877 and 1884, Heap played with Lazarus at Philharmonic Union concerts. On 5 November 1880 they performed Heap’s sonata. The Birmingham Daily Gazette review described it as ‘a valuable addition for all future time to our stock of high-class instrumental concerted music . . . interesting and pleasing alike to the amateur and learned musician.’

Martin Harlow

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