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Richard DUBUGNON (b.1968)
Chamber Music

Piano Quartet (1998)
Viv McLean, Piano; Illka Lehtonen, Violin, Julia Knight, viola, Matthew Sharp, Cello
‘Incantatio’ for Cello and piano (1996/2000) Matthew Sharp, cello and Dominic Harlan, piano
‘Trois evocations finlandaises’ (1991) for solo double bass played by Richard Dubugnon
‘Cinq Masques’ (1994-5) for solo oboe – Nicholas Daniel, oboe
Canonic Verses for oboe, cor anglais and oboe d’amore (1997)
Nicholas Daniel, Emma Fielding, Cor Anglais and Sai Kai, Oboe d’amore
Frenglish Suite for wind quintet -
Royal Academy Wind soloists
Recorded at St.Paul’s Church, Southgate, London, February/June 2001
NAXOS 8.555778 [76.42]


Richard Dubugnon is making quite a name for himself, and deservedly so. His musical language, like his lineage, is truly European. He was born in Lausanne, which is both Swiss and French. He trained in France but has since received commissions from festivals in England, France, Switzerland and Germany. He was a composition pupil of Paul Patterson at the Royal Academy of Music in London. It is particularly apt therefore that the Royal Academy Wind soloists are recorded here in his ‘Frenglish’ Suite. He is also a double bass player (and often performs with contemporary music groups in Britain) of considerable standing. This can be witnessed in his own performance of his early ‘Trois Evocations finlandaises’ inspired by a visit to Finland and featuring, in its central movement, a Finnish tune the composer notated whilst there. This piece should be snapped up to swell the limited repertoire available to solo bassists.

From Paul Patterson he has learned how to reconstruct tonality and to use it in an original way. This is a particular feature of all of these pieces but the striking Piano Quartet is especially noteworthy in this regard. It is even cited as being inspired by Fauré’s C minor quartet, not a bad model. He takes from tonality its strengths of key contrast and form. He uses indeterminate tonality where he wishes to create a deliberate insecurity at moments of tension. His music also has a rhythmic drive as in the Presto movement of the Piano Quartet, a work in just two movements. There is a deep lyricism as in ‘Incantatio’ inspired by the apparition of a poltergeist! It also contains humour. There is a wonderful photograph, in the booklet, of the bemused composer staring out of the window of a little Renault with his double bass protruding from the sunroof. Zany humour is also found especially in the Frenglish Suite (O dear what a title!) with its theme from ‘Geordie’ country hotly pursued by a set of attractive and clever variations. If, like many Europeans, Dubugnon is bi- or even tri-lingual then the ‘Frenglais Suite’ with its ‘Funèbre Lullaby’ and its final ‘Fermeture’ is suitably poly-European and ideal for our times. No wonder it is played with so much obvious pleasure.

The ‘Canonic verses’ are delightful miniatures, possibly a little too short to make a point and for most promoters to go to the trouble of getting a oboe d'amore player and a cor anglais. It is a particular joy to hear the wonderful Nicholas Daniel on the oboe here and even more so in the beautiful and attractive ‘Cinq masques’ for solo oboe. What a lucky composer to get this music originally written for Anne-Catherine Beach recorded by such a fine player. Incidentally Beach possesses a set of mural masks and "I decided to write a piece for each of them" (Dubugnon) they consist of ‘Arlequin’, ‘Masque Etrusque’, ‘Masque de Pompei’ and so on. The music is witty and virtuosic and entirely in keeping with the style of the composer who seems to have formed his language so early and is sticking with it.

Similar virtuosity can be heard in the finale of the ‘Frenglish suite’ and Dubugnon, although a string player, has a particular facility in writing brilliantly for the woodwind.

In a sense this CD acts a sort of ‘carde de visite’ for the young composer, stretching as it does across the first ten years of his fully creative life. It is projects like this which all composers need. But how very enterprising of Naxos to support young composers in this way. The booklet notes, written by the composer, mention a major orchestral ballet ‘Horrificques’ of 1997. Perhaps Naxos might be persuaded to record that in the near future.

The performances are exemplary and the recording is focused, strong and ideally balanced.

Gary Higginson


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