MUSIC / Played for time: Adrian Jack on recitals of new work for basset horn and soprano

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Bernard Shaw took Corno de Bassetto as his pseudonym because he believed this baritone clarinet of Mozart's time was obsolete, or at least safely obscure. He was wrong, for not only is the basset horn, and even its smaller sibling, the basset clarinet, revived for period performances, but Georgina Dobree is trying to create a modern repertoire for it.

How much success she will have remains to be seen. Most of the pieces she played in her recital with fellow clarinettist Geraldine Allen and the pianist Frank Wibaut at the Wigmore Hall on Monday, though written within the last seven years, were uninspiring.

It made for a long, grey evening, broken up by comings and goings, so that little sense of shape or momentum lightened the passage of time. Dobree reassured us at the start that most of the 10 works would be short, except for a sonata by the Czech-born Karel Janovicky. Dobree called it an important addition to the repertoire, while Janovicky was quoted as wishing to 'embrace all the possibilities offered by our musical heritage to the present-day composer'. In fact, the music drew on a very limited range of those possibilities, the language was bland and the ideas unmemorable.

The exceptional item was a gently doodling piece called Out of the Air by the American Elaine Barkin, whose score included pictures to stimulate Dobree's improvisations against a tape that sounded like a rag-bag of early electronic music. At least it left the mind free to wander.

The most interesting work of the evening didn't involve the basset horn at all, but was the Piano Sonata (1930) by the Dutch composer Willem Pijper. The outer movements of this concise work made wily use of the chromatic scale and I was curious to hear it again.

The following evening at the Wigmore Hall, the soprano Tracey Chadwell gave a recital with the pianist Pamela Lidiard and the recorder-player John Turner, based on the theme of pastoral inspiration - from the gently musing Englishman Michael Head to the environment-friendly New Zealander Gillian Whitehead. Interspersed were songs by French composers.

All the music suited Chadwell's voice, which is silvery in the higher register and more plummy below. It's also a little bit wobbly, though always in tune. She caught the light but voluptuous style of Bizet, Massenet and Debussy very nicely, though in Massenet's Pensee d'automne there were a few squeezed high notes and squashed words. But she sounded quite awesomely convincing, to a non-Danish or Norwegian speaker, in Bax's Three Norse Songs. The first, in particular, with its dark, ballad-like character, showed her fruitier tones to advantage.

A Norfolk Songbook by David Lumsdaine, to his own words and with accompaniments on every kind of recorder, were aptly free and airy. But the most substantial work was Whitehead's cycle Awa Herea. Its pace was shrewdly varied and the music encompassed a range of styles - from sung declamation to florid lyricism - without incongruity. There were solemn, spoken lines in Maori, which, again, Chadwell delivered with a completely convincing sense of character. The piano part, often recalling Messiaen in its harmonic colours, was as varied as the voice part, which it both complemented and challenged. Lidiard played it as an unashamed accompanist or, rather, as an equal partner.