Frozen river flows
Nigel OSBORNE Journey to the End of the Night (2001) [7:49]
Adrian LEE Peace for Vayu (2006) [4:45]
Howard SKEMPTON Random Girl (2003) [3:50]
Iannis XENAKIS Dmaathen (1976) [11:49]
Simon HOLT Sphinx (2000) [12:28]
Dobrinka TABAKOVA Frozen River Flows (2005) [6:17]
George NICHOLSON Seven Bagatelles (2007) [20:52]
New Noise (Janey Miller (oboe); Joby Burgess (percussion))
rec. Holy Trinity, Weston, Herts, Jan 2007; June-Sept 2009
OBOE CLASSICS CC2021 [67:50]

Bless Jeremy Polmear’s Oboe Classics for their spirit of intrepid endeavour. That was exactly what it took to produce this anthology drawing on music from so many brave new worlds of the creative imagination.

The Nigel Osborne mixes street-scene sounds, footsteps, Parisian accordion, tolling church-bell, birdsong, speech, percussion, lyrical-pensive and probing oboe. The title is from the 1932 novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Adrian Lee pursues his interest in the Karnatic music of Southern India with his Peace for Vayu. The ‘voices’ comprise the oboe d’amore principal, tabla, djembe, tambourine and tape. It’s a mesmerising experience that mobilises music we instantly recognise as indigenous to India. Skempton’s Random Girl is for oboe and vibraphone. It’s a beguilingly simple piece in which each instrument delightfully touches off the other’s ringingly singing or plangent strengths. There’s a Karnatic accent to Xenakis’s Dmaathen too. It’s specification is oboe, bongos, congas, bass drum, tam tam, vibraphone and marimba. It’s not hard work for all the references to Xenakis’s enthralment with mathematics and structure. Simon Holt’s Sphinx is for cor anglais, Thai gongs and crotale. The Xenakis is said to convey a sense of the distant past - well that is particularly true of the Holt piece which is capricious and carries the sense of arcane rites. Dobrinka Tabakova’s piece gives its name to the CD as a whole. It is for oboe, crotale and vibraphone and is the most eloquently lyrical work here. It was inspired by the image of a great river flowing under an icy stratum. Onecan feel the tension of the two levels moving at different speeds. George Nicholson’s Bagatelles is a varied kaleidoscope for an armoury of percussion some fifteen strong. It deploys multiphonics, key clicks and ‘colour’ pitches in a package that once again is melodic and far from forbidding.

The blown instruments played by Janey Miller include oboe, oboe d’amore and cor anglais. These are testing pieces for the players and Joby Burgess is certainly put through his musical and technical paces as much as his colleague.

The 12-page full colour CD booklet has details of each track in English. There is also a biography of New Noise and many photographs.

Rob Barnett

Brave new worlds of the creative imagination.