> British Oboe and Piano [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Richard Rodney BENNETT (born 1936)
After Syrinx I (1982)
Herbert HOWELLS (1892 – 1983)

Oboe Sonata (1942)
Gordon JACOB (1895 – 1984)

Seven Bagatelles (1970)
Lennox BERKELEY (1903 – 1989)

Oboe Sonatina Op.61 (1962)
Edmund RUBBRA (1901 – 1986)

Oboe Sonata in C Op.100 (1958)
William McMullen (oboe); Catherine Herbener (piano)
Recorded: Kimball Recital Hall, University of Nebraska, May 1998 and May 1999


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Herbert Howells’ magnificent Oboe Sonata is by far the most substantial work here. It was written in 1942 for Leon Goossens (who else?) who, incidentally, never performed it. This wonderful work was eventually first performed in 1984 by Sarah Francis and Peter Dickinson who also recorded it on HYPERION A66206 (re-issued in 1999 on HELIOS CDH 55008). It is a tightly argued piece that has nevertheless many beautifully lyrical moments and its present popularity is quite deserved.

Edmund Rubbra’s Oboe Sonata in C Op.100 (1958), written for Evelyn Rothwell, is also a quite meaty essay full of this composer’s hallmarks. It is also one in which the basic idea is thoroughly developed through a series of transformations, as is often the case in Rubbra’s never indifferent music. However the work is also imbued with warmly lyrical flights of fancy. It is one of Rubbra’s finest chamber works.

Richard Rodney Bennett wrote five works based, in one way or another, on Debussy’s Syrinx. After Syrinx I for oboe and piano is a typical Bennett piece blending serial techniques (though he never was a strict serialist) with the tonal implications of Debussy’s work.

Lennox Berkeley, though no serial composer, based his Oboe Sonatina Op.61 on a 12-note row worked out in a non-serial way, so that Berkeley’s imprints are present throughout. As is often the case in Berkeley’s music, the basic material is developed with economy so that the music never outstays its welcome.

Gordon Jacob was an all-round craftsman who had a remarkable flair for wind instruments, and his Seven Bagatelles composed in 1970 are no exception. These short character pieces are beautifully written, full of exquisite instrumental touches and not without humour, as in Limerick.

William McMullen and Catherine Herbener obviously love these works, and play with assurance and dedication, making the best out of each of the pieces. Beautiful, natural recording fortunately free from any extraneous sounds (such as clicks or breathing). I have no reservation whatsoever in recommending this very fine release.

Hubert Culot

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