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Rory BOYLE (b.1951)
A Box of Chatter
Fl(ut)ing for flute quartet (2008) [4.22]
Burble for solo B flat Clarinet (2012) [7.24]
Reed Talk for two B flat Clarinets (2010) [6.34]
A Box of Clatter (2009) [11.02]
Touch for solo flute (2009) [6.06]
Intermezzo for bassoon and piano (2011) [7.05]
Elegy for oboe and string quartet (2002/9) [8.01]
Yvonne Paterson, Lee Holland (flutes); Sarah Hayes (alto flute); Jo Aschcroft (bass flute); Fraser Langton, Calum Robertson (clarinets); George Talmaciu (oboe); Aurea String Quartet; David Hubbard (bassoon); Scott Mitchell (piano)
rec. Royal Conservatoire of Music in Scotland, no dates given
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6224 [51.53]

I first came across the Scottish composer Rory Boyle at a Cheltenham Festival Service in the mid-1970s. I was having a brief anthem done and he had written a big organ work to end the act of worship, his exciting Toccata, recorded a few years later by Andrew Millington in 1988 (Priory PRCD268). Boyle was working in Malvern then and we lost contact although I tried to keep up with his works when they popped up on Radio 3, In this way I was able to hear his award-winning orchestral work for which he won the BBC Scottish Composer’s Prize, his Variations on a Theme of Orlando Gibbons.
 
He is now working again in Scotland. The present CD demonstrates his ability and pleasure in writing for youngsters - he has two children’s operas to his name - this time with students of his own alma mater, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. This disc has been produced to show off the talents of the musicians for whom he has written these often virtuosic compositions.
 
We start with Fl(ut)ing for flute quartet. For inspiration Boyle takes the word apart in ways I won’t go into and produces an exciting but brief ternary structure of flashing colours and scintillating finger-work. It acts as an ideal ‘overture’ to the remainder of the disc.
 
The dedicatee and performer of Burble, Fraser Langton, offered the composer “a list”, as Boyle says in his accompanying booklet notes, of various effects and alternative fingerings, which could be used on the clarinet. The resulting sounds gave the composer his inspiration as did the word Burble. To burblecan mean, he reminds us, “gurgling or bubbling sounds and a rapid excited flow of speech”. So this is what happens here with a variety of colours and rapid figurations, which constantly interest the ear.
 
Touch plays with the word Toccata - a touch piece. Fingerings producing dual pitches and nifty finger-work in general are the order of the day. Add to this various types of tonguings including a sort of chuffing half breath, half pitch. The middle section is more lyrical but the outer ones are rhythmic and almost antediluvian.
 
Reed Talk is a witty conversation for two equal B flat clarinets. The composer remarks that the loquacious pair are “rude, cheeky and harsh” or in the case of the quieter middle section, making another ternary structure, “wistful and lamenting”. Again, Boyle explores a wide range of ‘funny’ noises and the higher registers are dramatically exposed.
 
The idea of conversation is continued in A Box of Chatter, the longest piece on the disc. This is scored for flute doubling piccolo and alto flute, oboe doubling cor anglais, clarinet doubling bass clarinet and bassoon. The movement title tell you all. A wild sounding Gossip where everyone seems to talk at once on unrelated subjects, The Pub Bore, characterised by the melancholic cor anglais, who is often being ignored and Whispering Sweet Nothings, something most of us have done at some time, a gentle teasing little number. Your call is important to us, quite appropriately, has quotes from Vivaldi’s Spring and Winter to irritate you even more and is split by rather lugubrious chords as you (im)patiently wait to speak to a human. All great fun and very witty. 

There are two lyrical works on the CD. The Intermezzo for bassoon and piano, with its long, chromatic arching lines, has a central section that manages to explore alternative fingerings. These add colour which also has the effect of altering pitches I feel by quarter-tones although the composer does not mention this.
 
The piece that I felt most drawn to was the Elegy for oboe and string quartet. Here Boyle throws off the mask and cloak and puts together a reworking of two sections from his Oboe Concerto written in memory of his sister. It starts in aching calm and becomes more distraught as it winds onwards. The music acts as a catharsis in its closing moments. George Talmaciu has a wonderfully dark hue to his lower register and Boyle exploits this to the full. A fine work.
 
None of these pieces outstays its welcome even if the sound-world of some of them does not always appeal. The performances are wonderful, no doubt rehearsed and recorded under the composer’s eye. For these notable musicians of the future this disc must prove a landmark and they deserve all possible praise.
 
This may then be a good starting point for getting to know the music of Rory Boyle. There is also a disc of his solo piano music on Delphian which I gather is worth searching out.
 
Gary Higginson 


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