For many years I associated Dutton with reissues from Decca archives. Out
of the blue, three years ago, they cast off in new directions. Their British
music series, newly recorded, now serves a core role especially in the area
of chamber music. They have made a major contribution to the making accessible
of Rubbra's chamber music. There are four discs so far and rumours of all
four string quartets to come.
The First Sonata, rather like the Sonatina for solo piano,
is from the same stable as the Howells' First Violin Sonata and Vaughan Williams
instrumental writing in On Wenlock Edge. Rubbra expresses the pastoral
ecstasy of the English countryside though I confess that something with more
shattering fibre appears in the finale of the Sonata - a Shostakovich and
The Four Easy Pieces can be compared, in vernal charm, with Rubbra's
own Nine Teaching Pieces for solo piano. None of the four is longer
than 1.31. These are miniatures without a trace of condescension.
The Second Sonata was premiered at the Grotrian Hall in London by
Rubbra and his then wife the violinist Antoinette Chaplin. This work is not
lacking in passion - listen to track 8 [04. 01]. It is rather as if the emotion
that lights up Julius Harrison's Rhapsody - Bredon Hill and
Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending had had a sensuous flame played
over their cool outlines. The Sonata was recorded by Albert Sammons on 78s
and until 1950 this set was the only avenue by which you could hear some
Rubbra. The Lament is tragic in tone and would not be out of place
in Steve Honigberg's Holocaust series Darkness and Light (on Albany).
The finale rasps with such surly caprice that one might almost imagine
this to de Falla or Bloch.
The Phrygian Variations (a theme of Rubbra's own devising,
12 variations and a coda) were commissioned from Rubbra to celebrate the
Fifitieth birthday of Frederick Grinke. Grinke had been such a strength to
British composers since his twenties. It is a somewhat dry piece which for
me does not transcend the severe expectations the instrumentation suggests.
Seven years onwards and thirty five years after the Second the Third Sonata
was written for Peter and Angela Mountain. I recall Peter Mountain as
the leader of the BBC Training Orchestra (later The Academy of the BBC
- doomed to disbanding) and a frequent broadcaster from BBC's South West
Region. In this 1968 sonata we return, most of the way, to the passion of
the Second Sonata - at least in the Allegro. The grave Andante
has the violin in unshowy song and such a song as may remind you of the
legato themes in the Fourth Symphony and the Eleventh Symphony. The
finale looks back to the jaunty jocularity of the flightier moments in the
All we need now Dutton is a CD of Joseph Holbrooke's three violin sonatas
and another of the three by Granville Bantock.
This is a very well fleshed out disc and greatly enhanced by the steady-tone
and reserves of feeling invested in the music by Osostowicz and Dussek. The
programme notes are by Lewis Foreman. Rather like the late lamented Beulah,
Dutton seem to have connections with a transport museum. Classic designs
by Barnett Freedman and E McKnight Kauffer (courtesy of the London Transport
Museum) grace this series in clean and unglaring splendour.