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Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)
Oboe Quartet No. 2 (1945) [17:20]
Two Pieces for oboe and piano (Somerset Pastorale - The Passing of the Faerie) (1937) [5:28]
Three Songs without Words for oboe quartet (Whence! - Faery Flout - Barcarolle) (1937) [9:21]
Portrait (flute, oboe and piano) (1925) [9:04]
Greensleeves for oboe quartet (c. 1939-45) [2:01]
Oboe Quartet No. 1 (1932) [13:43]
Mark Baigent (oboe)
Sophie Barber (violin); Chian Lim (viola); Stephen Orton (cello); Eva Caballero (flute); Michael Jones (piano)
rec. 2017, Woodside Hall, Hitchin
OBOE CLASSICS CC2034 [57:00]

It's been a while since an all-Boughton disc has appeared, so this one is all the more welcome. Compellingly enough, it presents the complete Boughton chamber music for oboe. All but one of the works on the present disc are dedicated to Joy (in full, 'Joyance') Boughton (1913-63), the oboist daughter of the composer Rutland Boughton. Joy was a pupil of Leon Goossens. An Oboe Classics DVD includes Joy playing Britten's Six Metamorphoses after Ovid. She was also a member of Britten's orchestra at Aldeburgh. The Boughton family was certainly a musical one. Son, Brian Boughton was a trumpeter and in 1943 his father wrote a Trumpet Concerto (review) for him.

In 2014, after being approached by Ian Boughton, Mark Baigent performed Boughton's Oboe Quartet No. 2 at Glastonbury as part of the centenary celebrations, which in turn led to this recording. He has also played a part in recordings of Rob Keeley, Pepusch, Torelli, Vivaldi, Boismortier, Harty, MacMillan and Richardson and is a member of the Denner Ensemble. Michael Jones (piano) studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire and is a well-respected name among British music scholars. He has played arrangements of music by Elgar and champions the music of Edgar Bainton (a close friend of Boughton), whose music is shared with Boughton's on Dutton Epoch (CDLX 7185 and CDLX 7262).

In general, this predominantly affectionate music is light on drama. It's intense on good-hearted undulating lyrical contours: poetry not tragedy. The amiable Oboe Quartet No. 2 defies its late date with music that references folk tropes - folk song and village dance. There's an eclipse-like darkness in the second movement which takes us close to the gloomily concentrated domains of Moeran's Lonely Waters, Bridge's There is a Willow and Eugene Goossens' By The Tarn. The finale bounces along in playful innocence. From the other end of the Second World War come Two Pieces. The Somerset Pastorale is another skilled, fresh and touching essay in pastorals. The Passing of the Faerie (pre-echoes of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings) is an at first pensive and sorrowing piece which references a theme from The Immortal Hour around the words "How beautiful they are, the lordly ones". There's a more animated central section. Also from the same year we hear Three Songs without Words. The first Song hesitantly slips and slides along, as befits a piece called Whence! The confident Faery Flout struts its stuff and even adds a dash from the Emerald Isle. The Barcarolle prepares us for shady realms of the Second Oboe Quartet's second movement. The earliest piece here is the complex Portrait. Its agreeable density and substance distinguish it from the other pieces here. Absent the words, with which we are familiar, Greensleeves would have been another movement to add to the other Three Songs Without Words. The CD ends with the First Oboe Quartet from 1932. This has some of the density and emotional ambivalence of the Portrait but is sweeter and has more of the fragrance of new-mown hay about it. After the wink and skip of the central movement (Allegro giocoso) comes an Andante con variazione that has some passages that are thoughtful and even studious. Again, Boughton is not afraid of ending with a well-favoured passive gesture. In addition to these oboe chamber works there are two concertos for the instrument, of which the First (1937) appears on Hyperion Helios CDH5509. The rarely performed second concerto - as yet unrecorded - was dedicated to Leon Goossens.

Hyperion have quite a few Boughton discs should you wish to explore further and even compare: Oboe Quartet 1 and string quartets, Flute Concerto etc, as well as Symphony No. 3 on Helios CDH5509, the choral-drama Bethlehem on CDA66690 and The Immortal Hour on Dyad CDD22040, originally CDA66101/2. Dutton have also done their bit with panache: the Boughton/Bainton tone poems (CDLX7262), First Symphony Oliver Cromwell and complete The Queen of Cornwall (Dutton 2CDLX7256), as well as the orchestral transcription of the Love Duet from The Immortal Hour.

Ian R Boughton wrote the sedulously detailed, extended essay for this CD. The booklet is satisfyingly designed and informative booklet runs to 12 pages - typical of Oboe Classics.

Rob Barnett
Previous review: John France



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