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CD: Crotchet

Edwin ROXBURGH (b. 1937)
Study 1 (2007) [5:04]
Aulodie (1977) [13:50]
Images (1967) [5:44]
Eclissi (1971) [8:09]
Antares (1988) [9:38]
Elegy (1982) [16:39]
Cantilena (1991) [7:14]
Christopher Redgate (oboe, oboe d’amore); Stephen Robbings (piano)
Ensemble Exposé/Roger Redgate (Elegy)
rec. Coombehurst Studio, Kingston University, 2 March 2008 (Elegy), 13 April 2008 (Eclissi, Antares, Aulodie) and 26 May 2008 (Images, Study 1, Cantilena)
METIER MSV28508 [66:08]
Experience Classicsonline

Roxburgh’s music has been conspicuously absent from the catalogue for many long years. Now, all of a sudden, come several discs entirely devoted to his music. NMC released two discs: orchestral on NMC D119 and piano music on NMC D132. Oboe Classics’ recent CD of the oboe music, excellently reviewed here by John France, shares several works with the one now under review.
Roxburgh was trained as a professional oboe player and has performed new works for the instrument. It is thus not surprising that his output includes a number of works for oboe. These were written throughout his career. The earliest work dates from 1969 whereas the most recent was completed in 2007. Several of his works for oboe are connected in one way or another with other prominent oboe players. Thus, Aulodie (1977) and Antares (1988) were composed for Léon Goossens on his 80th and 90th birthday respectively. Elegy (1982) was written ‘in memory of Janet Craxton’. Finally, Study 1 (2007), dedicated to Lady Barbirolli, was written for the Barbirolli International Oboe Festival and Competition 2009.
The earliest work here, Images does not display any particularly new oboe techniques. These are rather to be heard briefly and tellingly in the piano part which includes some playing inside the instrument. The music mostly unfolds as a succession of short contrasting episodes, often accompanied by angular and capricious piano writing.
Eclissi for oboe and string trio may be one of the first works in which Roxburgh explored contemporary oboe techniques such as multiphonics, flutter-tonguing and the like. These are to be heard in the earlier stages of the work where they combine or confront the strings until they resolve into characteristic sound in the coda that is pure magic.
The very title of Aulodie refers to the Greek aulos and its three movements (Paean, Hermes, Ariadne’s Thread) are exactly what their title suggests. Paean has fanfare-like outer sections framing a livelier episode. Hermes is a Scherzo moving at great speed and slowing down for the central section. The work ends with Ariadne’s Thread, appropriately enough, a long melody unfolding peacefully over a spare piano accompaniment. The music dispenses with all contemporary techniques and exploits the many possibilities of “traditional” oboe playing.
The most substantial work here, Elegy is considerably more complex. It is scored for a small mixed ensemble: violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet, percussion and electronics. The electronics must have been used quite sparingly for I could not detect any of it, even after several attentive listening sessions. The work opens calmly with the strings, later flute and clarinet joining the oboe and weaving some close counterpoint. A short-lived crescendo punctuated by multiphonics and the percussion’s first entry launches into a new section that soon becomes more animated. Another slow section with punctuation from the cello and the percussion follows. This into the beautiful, appeased coda.
Antares, too, uses new techniques but, as is the case with Eclissi and Elegy, these are for expression’s sake and are never overdone. Some of the music is not unlike that heard in Aulodie.
Both Cantilena (in memory of Adrian Cruft) and Study 1 completely avoid any modern oboe techniques. Cantilena is a straightforward and deceptively simple piece of great charm consisting of a long, almost endless melody unfolding over a crystalline accompaniment. Study 1 for solo oboe is also fairly traditional, emphasising the melodic character of the instrument while being challenging enough as befits a test piece for a competition.
Christopher Redgate plays wonderfully throughout, be it in the somewhat simpler works or in the more complex and demanding ones. He gets superb support from all concerned and the whole is beautifully recorded. I was particularly delighted to listen to a disc of music for oboe without being disturbed by the various clicks or breathing noises that sometimes disfigure such collections.
This very fine disc is an excellent survey of Roxburgh’s oboe music. It splendidly demonstrates the composer’s breadth of vision, from the straightforward to the more complex without ever losing anything of his personality.
Hubert Culot


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