Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:


Chamber Music
Endymion Ensemble
: Melinda Maxwell, Krysia Osostowicz, Jane Salmon & Michael Dussek, with Helen Keen (flute) & Catherine Manson (viola)
Dutton CDLX 7106 [77 mins]
Not released yet. Keep an eye on the Dutton Site

Some readers may be surprised at my enthusiasm for Edmund Rubbra (1901-86) and for this splendid collection of his chamber music. I listen to a lot of contemporary music in which the sound and its colouring are of primary importance, and the actual notes, maybe random or fixed by numerical schemata, are of minor interest to their composers. For Rubbra, an unrepentant tonal composer to the end, the actual notes and their key relationships are paramount; he can have a modulation which catches your breath like one of Schubert's. Development of his material was important; always logical, but he allowed it to lead him along unplanned pathways. His prevailing mood is serious, and his instrumentation can sound drab and unimaginative; he had no time for 'advanced techniques'. So his world is one of his own, and his music has an instantly recognisable, consistent personality which is evident throughout this generously filled CD of instrumental music, played by the Endymion Ensemble, our resident group in Blackheath.

The Phantasy (1927) is for two violins with piano, an unusual combination. It progresses steadily with a dignity which is characteristic of Rubbra. His grave, ceremonial Duo for Cor Anglais and Piano (1980) inhabits the same world, as do the 1949 Meditazioni for oboe (here), which I used to enjoy playing in its original version for treble recorder. The beautiful three movement Oboe Sonata Op 100 (1958) is one of Rubbra's more popular works, delivered here in an exemplary account by Melinda Maxwell with Endymion's staunch pianist, who plays in every item save for a little suite from his music for a radio play The Buddha, given here with flute, oboe and string trio.

The meat is the inclusion of both Rubbra's Piano Trios played here by Krysia Osostowicz, Jane Salmon & Michael Dussek (Op 68 of 1950 in one movement, and Op 138 in two - its date not supplied). The latter reflects 'a particularly joyful occasion' - the 21st birthday of the Gruenberg/Pleeth/Rubbra Trio - ends with a relaxed allegretto scherzando.

The CD is well recorded in a London church by Tony Faulkner to Dutton's high standard, and the informative notes are by Martin Anderson. Rubbra's Violin Sonatas are on Dutton CDLX 7101. £8.50

Peter Grahame Woolf

Reviews from previous months

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