Roxburgh has had a long career as a composer, oboist and conductor,
especially of modern works.
is one of the best-known of Roxburgh’s works and was important in confirming
his stature in the musical world. The work was inspired by seeing
pictures of Saturn and its moons sent back to earth by the Voyager
II spacecraft. It is a tone poem
in the form of variations and in it the composer seeks to portray
both the mythological and scientific aspects of Saturn’s major
moons ... as they were known at the time. I felt that the mythological
elements contained in the names of the moons were not really
addressed, but as a “spacescape” and as a set of variations
for orchestra and electronics, it’s “a pretty good ride”.
begins Saturn with a general depiction of the
moons that immediately puts one in an outer space atmosphere.
Dione (track 8) is a fugue for strings and Titan (track
10) is impressive, with an alto flute representing Titan’s
own moon. Hyperion (track 11) continues from Titan
and is somewhat frightening. Phoebe (track 13) is the
last moon, dying away to Saturn itself (track 14). Saturn
should be a large-scale summing up of the journey so far, but
I found it somewhat disappointing when compared with the moons’
music. The HCYO playing is sometimes scrappy, but powerful and
will convince many who would not otherwise listen to this music.
Peter Stark conducts somewhat stolidly, but his overall conception
of the piece is very strong.
Clarinet Concerto is a later work than Saturn
and a more introspective one. Instead of a series of variations,
the Concerto consists of three movements held together motivically.
The solo part is taxing, but not conventionally virtuosic and
the orchestra is an equal partner with the soloist overall.
It was premiered by Gervase de Peyer and the composer at the
Three Choirs Festival in Worcester
on 21 August 1995. I was present at this concert
and found the piece frequently interesting, but weak in terms
of construction. The same reservations still apply, I’m afraid,
but do not apply to Linda Merrick’s playing, which matches the
subtle changes of mood in the piece bar for bar. She is especially
impressive in the more restrained parts and those where the
soloist has to be part of the orchestra without becoming lost
within it. Roxburgh as conductor matches her all throughout
and the result is an extremely subtle performance. The Royal
Northern College Symphony Orchestra ably keeps up with soloist
a well-performed disc of music that deserves to be better known,
although it will appeal to a somewhat limited audience.
see also Review
by Hubert Culot