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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

 

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Margaret HUBICKI (b. 1915)
Dedication in Time
From the Isles of the Sea (1950s) (flute and piano) [7:41]
Piano Sonata (1934) [19:44]
Full Fathom Five (1935) (mezzo-soprano and piano) [2:04]
Theme and Variations (1939) (for string quartet) [11:32]
Irish Fantasy (1935) (Four Sketches for piano) [9:09]
Lonely Mere and Rigaudon (1935) (cello and piano) [8:35]
Svolgimento (1939) (violin and piano) [6:46]
Goladon Suite* (1957) (for piano duet) [7:37]
Daniel Pailthorpe (flute)
James Kirby (piano)
Annemarie Sand (mezzo-soprano)
Bochmann Quartet
Robert Max (cello)
Michael Bochmann (violin)
*Frederick Stocken (piano)
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London in July 2004
CHANDOS CHAN10322 [73:10]

 

 

Margaret Hubicki celebrates her 90th birthday in July 2005 and a disc devoted to her music is very timely. As far as I can tell, little of it has been recorded before. All the pieces featured here are first recordings except for Lonely Mere and Rigaudon. They were recorded a few years ago by Catherine Wilmers as part of an interesting multi-composer disc consisting entirely of the cello music of 20th century British female composers (ASV CDQS 6245). This is now deleted but would be well worthy of re-issue.

Margaret (a.k.a. Peggy) Hubicki was born Margaret Mullins, grew up in Hampstead and studied under Benjamin Dale at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1940 she married Bohdan Hubicki, a Canadian violinist of Ukrainian parentage. Three months later he was killed and she badly injured in an air raid. Thereafter she spent much of her life as a professor of harmony at the Royal Academy, teaching inter alia John Tavener and James Galway. The musicians performing on this disc are all former pupils and Frederick Stocken, who contributes excellent notes, tell us that the disc is a ninetieth birthday tribute “to a much loved mentor”. The rear of the booklet contains a dedication from the composer to the memory of her husband and a picture of them together, Bohdan holding his violin.

Hubicki’s music is tonal, strong on atmosphere and sometimes reminded me of John Ireland. Whilst not pushing back any boundaries, its apparent neglect is undeserved and these recordings are very welcome. The opener, From the Isles of the Sea is a very fine piece of tone painting, its inspiration derived from isle of Iona, a frequent holiday destination. Here, the flute of Daniel Pailthorpe conjures a feeling of timelessness.

The piano sonata which follows is an early three-movement work which Margaret performed at the Royal Academy and was then left unplayed for seventy years. The re-discovery of the manuscript in 2003 apparently provided the impetus for the making of this disc. Forms are conventional but the idiom agreeable. Most striking is the lyrical central slow movement and the finale reminds me a little of Shostakovich (presumably not an influence - he was in his 20s when this was written). James Kirby’s rendition certainly does the music justice.

Full Fathom Five is a setting of the song from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Beautifully sung by Annemarie Sand, the sole regret is that it is the only vocal piece on the disc. The theme and variations for string quartet which follows is based on a folk-like tune with six linked variations. Hubicki seems at home in both form and medium – if there are any string quartets languishing out there, they should be heard! Therein lies my one slight criticism of the documentation – it doesn’t indicate what else the composer has written.

Irish Fantasy is a delightful series of four sketches for piano entitled The lonely piper, The Banshee’s Dance, The Sorrow of Etaine and Reel. Sometime later Hubicki orchestrated the work and it became quite well known, being performed under the batons of Henry Wood and Malcolm Sargent.

Lonely Mere and Rigaudon were inspired by the Malvern Hills and are dedicated to “MJM” (May Mukle perhaps?). In 1936 they received a performance at the Wigmore by Peers Coetmore (E.J. Moeran’s wife). The former is intensely lyrical, creating a feeling of great space. The latter provides a suitably jaunty foil.

Svolgimento (which is Italian for “unfolding”) was written for Bohdan to play - presumably accompanied by Margaret - and was intended as the first movement of a violin sonata. It is understandable if regrettable that she never completed it because this is one of the most interesting works on the disc. The Goladon Suite which concludes the disc is in four short movements but is rather less inspired. Certainly no great virtuosity is required and aspiring piano duettists might well like to seek this out.

To sum up, unfamiliar worthwhile music in performances and sound which are at a very high standard. A heart-warming disc, well-presented and with a title to ponder – happy birthday Margaret Hubicki.

Patrick C Waller

 

 



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