One of the most grown-up review sites around

50,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases

Superior performance

Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem Thielemann

Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital

Arnold Bax
Be converted

this terrific disc

John Buckley
one of my major discoveries

François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3


Bryden Thomson


Vaughan Williams Concertos

RVW Orchestral


REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

English Music For Oboe
Variations for Oboe and Cello ‘Little Epiphany’ [14:00]
Stephen DODGSON (1924-2013)
Quartet for Oboe and String Trio [15:58]
Peter DICKINSON (b.1934)
Four Duos for Oboe and Cello [9:25]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Seven Bagatelles for Solo Oboe [7:33]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Oboe Sonata* [20:32]
Sarah Francis (oboe), Peter Dickinson (piano), Tagore String Trio, Rohan de Saram (cello)
rec. 1985*/2014, St. Silas Church, Kentish Town; St. Barnabas Church, East Finchley *

Two years ago Heritage issued a superb 4 CD set of Baroque oboe concertos by Sarah Francis (HTGCD400) and they now follow it up with a recording of English music for oboe which has a personal association for the soloist. Four of the works included were written for Sarah Francis by leading 20th century English composers: Gordon Crosse, Stephen Dodgson, Peter Dickinson and Gordon Jacob. The Crosse, Dodgson and Dickinson works receive their world premiere recordings. The coupling is the Howells Oboe Sonata, written for Leon Goossens. Sarah was the first oboist to perform and record the work and that premiere recording appears here under licence from Hyperion.

Sarah Francis started her career as principal oboe in the BBC Welsh Orchestra. She has broadcast regularly for the BBC since the age of 19 in recitals and concerto performances, including the Proms where she premiered Ariadne, the concerto composed for her by Gordon Crosse. She is a wonderful player and this disc captures her art to perfection. It is to the huge credit of Heritage that we are offered these unique recordings of unusual music, impeccably played.

Gordon Crosse’s Little Epiphany uses the same two themes and structure as his orchestral Epiphany Variations. There is an opening theme, a set of eight variations and then a closing theme. The piece is a 14 minute conversation between cello and oboe and this conversation often becomes heated and argumentative before cooling off. It’s the inspired cello writing that makes the music really interesting. Crosse uses harmonics, pizzicato effects and a full range of string tone and dynamics. Rohan de Saram matches the oboe beautifully. This is quite a discovery.

Stephen Dodgson’s Oboe Quartet is in three movements, the first of which is an antique-sounding Prelude. The lively and playful Scherzo is neo-classical in style and this is followed by a substantial Allegretto that constitutes around half the length of the quartet’s time-span. The unaccompanied oboe states an opening theme and this is followed by five variations and a strong climax. The overall impression of the work is that it is structurally sound, full of strong rhythmic ideas and free-flowing in nature.

Peter Dickinson’s Four Duos were composed in 1932. Three of the short movements, in homage to Charles Ives, use a twelve-tone row taken from the composer's 1905 Three-Page Sonata. Cello and oboe are equal partners in this quirky but engagingly humorous music.

The unaccompanied Bagatelles by Gordon Jacob are successful in illustrating the composer’s professionalism and high level of craftsmanship. The seven short movements are full of contrast and delight. Ms Francis plays them with grace, charm and effortless virtuosity.

Finally we have the Herbert Howells Oboe Sonata. This is the most substantial item on the disc, running for over twenty minutes. The opening of the first movement Placido, teneramente, ma con moto is typical of the English pastoral style with its beautiful flowing tune. The ensuing Lento gives the oboist a further opportunity to present another song-like melody. This really is English music through and through. The Scherzando leads into an impressive oboe cadenza and the Sonata finishes with an Epilogue that touchingly fades away. Written for Leon Goossens in 1942 the work apparently didn’t take his fancy. I don’t know why because it’s inventive and expertly written with good tunes and plenty of contrast. I liked it very much. It brings the disc to a satisfying conclusion.

The recording quality is first class throughout but the Howells, sourced from Hyperion, has a different acoustic to the rest of the recital. This is an observation rather than a criticism. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the playing. Sarah Francis and her colleagues are just magnificent.
John Whitmore



We are currently offering in excess of 50,400 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger