The enterprising Guild label has come up with another
fascinating and generously filled disc with this recording of British
Oboe Concertos. You may consider this particular genre quite intimate
and more suited to the baroque period but these diverse works add wonderfully
to the repertoire and should help open up new horizons for concert promoters.
The disc also showcases some superb young performers.
The disc opens with John Joubert
’s Concerto of 2006. His
concertos are little known and unrecorded. There’s the Violin
Concerto Op. 13 of 1954, written when he was just starting out on his
professional life. Then came the Piano Concerto of 1958. In 1974 he
wrote the Bassoon Concerto and Threnos
for harpsichord and strings
if that counts. To my knowledge there has been nothing else since.
So this Oboe Concerto
is his first concerto for well over forty
years and it was certainly worth the wait. In three movements, it opens
with an agitated Allegro moderato
where one notices the typical
Joubert fingerprints: certain rhythmic patterns, imitative writing and
sequences all within in a strongly authoritative movement. The Scherzo
, comes next, scurrying and excitable. The finale
is a Poco Lento
, which uses a 17-bar ground bass. He has used
the passacaglia form before, for example in the third movement of his
Piano Sonata Op 71. There’s also an Organ Passacaglia
Op 35. It’s the longest movement in both the sonata
and the concerto. Paul Conway’s comment that the concerto is of
a major stature and “plainly the product of accumulated wisdom”
seems to hit the target exactly. It is emotionally cohesive and deeply
impressive. It’s good also that the booklet quotes the composer’s
own succinct and valuable analysis of the work.
To move to the last work on the disc, we have the Concerto for Oboe
. He it was that recorded Joubert’s
piano music in the 1970s, a disc now available on Somm (060-2). The
two have been friends and colleagues for many years. The Concerto is
an elusive yet atmospheric work couched in one movement but falling
into four sections. There’s a Lento
in which much of the
material can be heard. Then follows an Allegretto Scherzando
clearly inspired, as the composer admits in the notes quoted from the
initial performance for the 1995 the Isle of Wight Festival, by bird
flight. Next there is an Allegretto
which slips effortlessly
back to the opening Largo -
so an arch shape in many ways which
is satisfying and yet leaves you with a few questions unanswered which
is probably a good thing. Especially attractive is the addition of harp
and timpani. There are episodes for just the two of them, or for just
oboe and timpani.
Immediately following the Joubert comes a piece which I’m ashamed
to say was new to me: Britten
a student work. It’s apt also that it follows the Joubert because
he has been a life-long admirer of Britten. After hearing the Phantasy
Felix Weingartner, according to Robert Matthew-Walker’s excellent
notes, declared that the young Britten was a genius. From the point
of view of construction and originality of ideas it seems to me that
he was quite right. There is also homage to Mozart whom Britten venerated
in that the latter’s Oboe Quartet is in a similar sort of arch
form to that which Britten utilises. There is even the employment of
the oboe 3/4 phrasing against the strings’ 4/4 in the central
‘sempre piu agitato’ section. The material is also strikingly
unusual, even for the young Britten: especially its march-like opening
with something sounding like a regular Bartókian pizzicato.
was inspired by the Welsh Border landscape in
her Presteigne Festival commission, The Gentle Dove
based on the Welsh folk song Y Deryn Pur
. The landscape in question
is very near to my Herefordshire home and I can easily relate to it.
This is a calming and mellifluous creation; just a miniature but a lovely
and perfectly formed one.
The longest work on the CD is by Kenneth Leighton
who died tragically
young by modern standards. Everything that emerged from his pen is to
my mind consistently outstanding. Surely he is still wildly underrated.
His Concerto for oboe and strings dates from 1951, and would have appeared
rather ’cowpat’ at the time had it been performed. In fact
it was almost a scandalous fifty years, in 2001 before it was heard
at a Three Choirs’ Concert. It is in three movements. In the first
two the oboe sings and in the spiky Scherzando
finale it dances,
modally and chromatically but always retaining both beauty and interest.
Movements 1 and 2, although marked Molto moderato ma con moto
and Lento molto
respectively, in this performance feel a little
too similar in tempo. The con moto
of movement 1 seems to have
been slightly overlooked.
Otherwise the performances by the London-based Orchestra Nova under
George Vass are exemplary and sensitive throughout to the disparate
styles represented. Jinny Shaw proves herself to be a very fine soloist
with a beautifully rich tone which balances perfectly with whatever
combination is thrown at her. The recorded balance likewise is excellent
and the acoustic of the early 20th
century church in Kentish
Town is ideal. How did they manage to avoid extraneous traffic noise
in this busy part of London?
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