David Dubery: Composer’s Update
About this time last year, I reviewed an exciting retrospective CD called ‘Songs & Chamber Music’ by David Dubery. I was impressed by nearly every track. Since then I have heard a couple of other pieces of his music. The first, Oberon’s Delight for oboe and string quartet, was at a concert in Wilmslow celebrating counter-tenor James Bowman’s 70th birthday. This is a well-considered piece reflecting the character of Oberon as realised by Bowman in Benjamin Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. The second was in a recent 2-CD exploration of Antony Hopkins’ music: Dubery had contributed a short piece to Eight Tributes to Antony Hopkins, which was presented to the composer in 2011. These were gifted by eight contemporary composers including Gordon Crosse, David Ellis and Anthony Gilbert. Dubery’s contribution was the ‘delicious’ ‘Evening in April’ for soprano, recorder and piano. This work is based on a poem by David Gibson from his collection The Singing Earth. It is a heart-achingly beautiful piece of music.
Biographically, three things need to be borne in mind about David Dubery. Firstly, he was born in Durban in South Africa in 1948 and in 1961 he came to his mother’s home town of Manchester. Secondly, from an early age he composed music and was a junior at the Northern School of Music from1964-66. He subsequently studied there as an undergraduate until 1970 and followed this with a post-graduate year specializing in piano accompaniment. His performing career is that of accompanist working in the fields of stage and broadcasting.
And lastly, from a compositional point of view, he works with a traditional musical language that is always approachable, but is sometimes demanding. He prefers to compose miniatures rather than large scale pieces, however amongst the songs and the chamber pieces there are a few music-theatre pieces such as Once upon an Ark and an American styled musical called Love Lines. Although there is no symphony, (yet) there are a number of concerted works and tone poems.
Dubery has told me that there have been some excellent reviews of his CD in the British and American press. David DeBoor Canfield in the Fanfare Magazine states that this ‘disc is a delight from beginning to end’. He suggests that the composer ‘writes in a style that is both immediately accessible and richly rewarding. The lyricism of this very tonal music is underpinned by harmonies that are imaginative and unexpected’. D. Moore commenting in the American Record Guide notes that Dubery’s ‘music has a traditional flavour to it...’ and that his ‘... idiom is romantic at heart with a leaning towards jazz.’
On 13 July 2012 the RTE Lyric fm radio station broadcast a number of tracks from the ‘Songs & Chamber Music’ album on the Paul Herriot Lyric Concert. It is still available as a podcast.
In my review of Dubery’s CD, I wrote that the masterpiece (in my opinion) was the Cello Sonata. This work was originally written for double bass and piano, however that work was seemingly abandoned. The Sonata in its present form was completed in 2006 and lasts for about eleven minutes. It is in three movements. This is a lyrical work that sits fairly and squarely in a late twentieth century tradition of music that does not greatly challenge the listener with issues of musical language, but certainly makes demands on their emotional engagement. The heart of the work is the deeply felt ‘lento’ – which is both profound and moving. The composer suggests that this music was inspired by a tramp across the hills above Varenna, near Lake Como in Italy. I felt that there was not a bar of this piece that is not interesting, enjoyable and satisfying. In addition, I concluded by believing that this was an important Cello Sonata that must surely enter the repertoire. This importance has been recognised in two future performances of this work. These are on 11 October 2012 at St Olave’s Church, Hart Street and on 25 October 2012 in ‘London and Music’ at St Pancras’ Lunchtime Music series. The performers will be the distinguished cellist Felicity Vincent with pianist Richard Black.
New compositions from Dubery’s pen include a Sonata for Recorder & Piano due to be recorded for CD release in a collection of Sonatas by the end of August 2012. The performers will be John Turner (recorder) with Harvey Davies (piano). The CD should be available in 2013.
Four Escapades (which also featured on his CD in an arrangement for recorder, bassoon and piano) will be published in 2013 by Emerson Wind Music. This will be in a version for flute, bassoon & piano with optional recorder. I felt that the flute edition would ultimately be more satisfying. Escapades (2008) originally had the bassoonist Graham Salvage in mind. The musical idea is to present material as a conversation or dialogue between all three players. The suite has great variety, with an opening movement of considerable metrical change; the second is a bit hard-edged and has ‘oriental’ overtones. The third is a rhapsody of some beauty, whilst the final movement is a neo-classical dance.
Finally, information has been received that a USA premiere of Sonetti d’amore, that was written for, and performed by James Bowman, will take place in Chicago next April (2013). The soloists have yet to be announced.
John France August 2012