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British Music for flute, oboe and piano
Eugène GOOSSENS (1893-1962)
Pastorale et Arlequinade for flute, oboe and piano (1924) [6:58]
Madeleine DRING (1923-1977)
Trio for flute, oboe and piano (1968) [9:56]
Richard Rodney BENNETT (b. 1936)
Sounds and Sweet Aires for flute, oboe and piano (1985) [12:55]
Edward McGUIRE (b. 1948)
Three Dialogues for flute and oboe (1966) [5:10]
Rhian SAMUEL (b. 1944)
Shadow Dance for flute, oboe and piano (1984) [4:36]
Thea MUSGRAVE (b. 1928)
Impromptu for flute and oboe (1967) [4:59]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Suite Bourgeoise for flute, oboe and piano (c.1939-40) [11:56]
Nancy Ruffer (flute); John Anderson (oboe); Helen Crayford (piano)
rec. St. Silas Church, Chalk Farm, London, 18–19 July 2005 (Bennett; McGuire; Samuel; Musgrave); Potton Hall, Suffolk, 18 May 2006 (Goossens; Dring; and Arnold). DDD
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7181 [57:50] 


Dutton, the independent Watford-based label has released a recording of British Music for flute, oboe and piano from a diverse mix of composers. Here American flautist Nancy Ruffer joins British players, John Anderson and Helen Crayford to form an impressive ensemble who just delight in this appealing programme of twentieth-century trios and duos.

The first and oldest work on this release is London-born Sir Eugène Goossens’ attractive Pastorale et Arlequinade for flute, oboe and piano. It is a two movement score that he wrote in 1924 for his brother Léon, an oboist with the Philharmonic Trio. As the title implies the opening movement evokes a gentle and sunny rustic setting, complete with occasional birdsong effects. The Arlequinade is fresh and vivacious with an engaging degree of drama.

The English composer Madeline Dring married oboist Roger Lord and the three movement Trio for flute, oboe and piano from 1968 was one of the scores she wrote with him in mind. It opens with a melodic, rhythmic and restless Allegro con brio followed by a relaxing central Andante semplice with a recurring principal theme. The closing movement, a stylish Allegro giocoso designed in a neo-Classical vein, is reminiscent of Poulenc.

The most recent work on this release is from the English composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.. Now an American resident, Bennett wrote Sounds and Sweet Aires for flute, oboe and piano in 1985 as a commission from WUNC Radio at the University of North Carolina. Designed in a three movement scheme I found the opening Allegretto Lyrico rather dense, slightly unsettling and tinged with an ominous atmosphere. The central Capriccioso is dark and turbulent at times and I enjoyed the hectic and jerky closing movement marked Lento - con brio.

The Three Dialogues were written in 1966 by Scottish composer Edward McGuire whilst a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The score opens with a pithy and rather nondescript dialogue. Tension builds in the central slow movement and the work ends with a brief movement of a bumpy and weaving character.

Welsh-born Rhian Samuel composed her original version of Shadow Dance in 1984, intended for students at King’s College, London. The single movement work for flute, oboe and piano was revised in 1985. Samuel’s score is sinister and darkly-hued nature music containing a sense of unpleasant bickering.

Another single movement work, the Impromptu for flute and oboe was written by Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave in 1967. Intended for the flautist Douglas Whittaker and oboist Janet Craxton the première took place at London’s Wigmore Hall. Musgrave has written a note about the score, “As the title implies it is a short light-hearted work. It is based on a short distinctive phrase heard at the outset. This returns many times at different pitches and always with a different continuation.” An unusual, although accessible work, designed in a single scurrying movement the players at times follow each other by use of cues rather than using notation by bar lines.

Englishman Sir Malcolm Arnold wrote his Suite Bourgeoise for flute, oboe and piano in the early war years, around 1939/40. It is a masterwork of the genre now forming an important part of his wonderful musical legacy. Evidently the score was lost for fifty or so years and only surfaced in 1996. Cast in five movements the it commences with a hot and sultry Prelude with a sunny Mediterranean feel, followed by the warm and lyrical Tango subtitled ‘Elaine’ and concluding in a pastoral vein. I found the central movement titled Dance (censored), originally called Whorehouse, evocative of the bright lights of a bustling evening city scene and the passionate Ballad has a cocktail bar feel to the piano writing. The Suite Bourgeoise concludes with an attractive movement titled Valse (Ugo) infused with swirling, good humour.

I wish to draw attention to an outstanding new release of Malcolm Arnold Wind Chamber Music that includes the Suite Bourgeoise in a version for flute, clarinet and piano. Recorded in 2006 at Potton Hall, Suffolk by members of East Winds: flautist Judith Treggor; clarinettist Victoria Soames Samek and pianist Paul Chilvers. This superbly performed and recorded release is available on Naxos 8.570294 (c/w Wind Quintet, Op.2; Duo for 2 clarinets, Op. 135; Dream City (arr. Paul Harris for wind quintet); Hobson's Choice: Overture (1953) (arr. Uwe Radok for wind octet); Grand Fantasia for flute, clarinet and piano; Overture (1940) (arr. Uwe Radok for wind octet); Scherzetto (arr. for clarinet and piano from film score You Know What Sailors Are); Fantasy for solo clarinet, Op. 87; Fantasy for flute and clarinet; Divertimento for flute, oboe and clarinet, Op. 37 and Three Shanties for wind quintet, Op. 4).

Throughout this Dutton release it is difficult not to be impressed with the playing. These musicians display a special affinity for this repertoire and especially evident is their freshness, sensitivity and lightness of touch. Their ensemble is so secure it is no surprise that they chose to navigate a safe mid-course. At times one wonders what results might have been achieved if the trio had accentuated the dynamics further. The Dutton engineers have provided a most satisfactory sound quality and the decently written booklet notes provide all the basic information. 

In 2006 I heard the Goossens Pastorale et Arlequinade; the Dring Trio and the Arnold Suite Bourgeoise splendidly performed in recital at my local music society.. The performers were Intriplicate, a young Manchester based trio formed in 2001 with flautist Claire Fillhart; oboist Sally Richardson and pianist Claire Dunham. Intriplicate are an ensemble I would certainly travel some distance to hear perform.

Dutton have released a well performed and recorded disc of delightful British Music for flute, oboe and piano. This attractive disc is self recommending.

Michael Cookson


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