Greatest Hits of All Time: Contemporary Music for Oboe
and Ensemble Roger REDGATE (b.1958)
Quintet for Oboe and Strings (2003) [5:59] Michael
Greatest Hits of All Time [13:09] Roger REDGATE
(1988) [5:28] Christopher FOX(b. 1955)
Oboe Quintet (1995) [14:42] Howard
SKEMPTON (b. 1947)
Garland for Oboe and String Trio [2:24] Michael
Ceci n’est pas une forme [5:34] James
Quintet for Oboe and String Quartet (1992) [8:15]
Christopher Redgate (oboe, cor
Kreutzer Quartet, Ensemble Exposé, Roger Redgate (violin), Bridget Carey
(viola), Robin Michael (cello), Julian
rec. 16 September 2002, 23 April 2003, 1 May 2003, Holy Trinity Church, Weston
and 12 January 2006, The Steyning Centre, Steyning, UK. DDD METIER MSV28513 [56:15]
Oboe virtuoso Christopher Redgate has worked tirelessly to create
contemporary music for his instrument, and to extend the practical
capabilities of the instrument.
This disc features British works for oboe and ensemble.
The disc features two works by Roger Redgate, the oboist’s brother. The Quintet
for oboe and strings which opens the disc is a complex atonal work with
an explosive opening. A slower section ensues, and an extended duo interlude
oboe and cello. The textural writing is well conceived and much is contained
within this short movement. Despite its complexity, this is highly expressive
music, with the strings accompanying a beautifully shaped oboe line which ascends
to the extremes of the instrument’s high range. The second Redgate work
on the disc, Eperons, is a duo for oboe and percussion. The oboe begins
with an extended solo, which serves as a virtuoso showpiece, taking the instrument
to its limits. The percussion part is no less complex, and this is a work which
makes big demands in terms of both the individual lines and the ensemble. Once
again, the music is expressively played, and the technical demands never sound
out of control or gimmicky; it is a testament to Christopher Redgate’s
playing that this music almost sounds easy.
Michael Finnissy’s Greatest Hits of All Time lends its title to
the CD as a whole, and uses four elements borrowed from other music. The oboe
line is based on Korean traditional music, making wide use of microtonal scales,
while the instruments in the ensemble play material based on Mahler’s
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Beethoven’s late piano sonatas.
Oboe, piano and percussion feature heavily in the work. The second Finnissy
work is Ceci n’est pas une forme. A solo oboe line glides and meanders
through the work, with the accompaniment of a piano punctuated by pizzicato strings.
With references to art (Magritte and Broodthaers), the title suggests the perception
of music in time, with forms being created and unraveled as the work continues.
There is something haunting about this piece, with its microtonal language and
continuously evolving lines.
After the complexity of some of the other works, Christopher Fox’s Oboe
Quintet serves as something of a palate cleanser. This is a stunning piece,
which immediately captures the imagination. Fox uses different tonalities to
create an exotic sound-scape, and the oboe sound is used to stand out from the
strings to create a dramatic contrast of timbre. Written in distinct sections,
there is a sense of direction through the work and some beautifully expressive
moments, including some wonderful harmonies in the central slow section.
Howard Skempton’s Garland for Oboe and String Trio is a short,
simple work which has considerable charm, while the final work on the disc,
James Clarke’s Oboe
Quintet, returns to the neo-complexity of the opening of the disc, with
a richly microtonal language and scordatura strings. Clarke’s approach to
the ensemble is to write for all the instruments ‘as one’, so the
textures are largely based around rhythmic unison and blocks of sound. This
is a successful approach which creates an engaging sound. Oboe multiphonics
improvised over a pulsating chord in the cadenza section, which becomes more
frenzied and intense as it progresses, pushing the work towards its dramatic
This is an excellent disc of well written and imaginative repertoire. Christopher
Redgate’s playing is dazzling throughout, and the ensembles with whom he
performs are similarly excellent. Redgate deserves to be commended for all he
has achieved in developing his instrument’s repertoire, and while this
complex contemporary music may not be to everyone’s taste, it demonstrates
the capabilities of both the oboe and its performer, both of which have much
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