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Vive la difference
Jean-Michel DAMASE (1928-2013)
Trio (1961) [20:17]
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
D'un Matin de Printemps (1918) arr. Jeremy Polmear [4:47]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Deux Interludes (1946) [6:45]
Frederick DELIUS (1863-1934)
Intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda (1910) arr. Eric Fenby [4:17]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Trio (1958) [12:51]
Edward NAYLOR (1867-1934)
Trio (1924) [5:27]
Eugene GOOSSENS (1893-1962)
Pastoral and Harlequinade (1924) [7:05]
Anthony Robb (flute): Jeremy Polmear (oboe): Michael Bell (piano)
rec. June 2018, All Saints Church, East Finchley, London
OBOE CLASSICS CC2035 [61:22]

The Entente Cordiale is alive and well in this album of twentieth-century Franco-British chamber music for oboe, flute and piano. It ranges chronologically from Delius to Jean-Michel Damase, whose arresting four-movement Trio of 1961 opens the disc.

When its startling opening gesture has made its point it slowly turns into a genial canon, light-hearted and airy, full of incident. With an insoucuiant quasi-operatic Allegretto, with its ardent oboe theme over the piano’s prompts, and a Les Six-like Scherzo this is a work with a little bit for everyone, not least when the opening’s arresting figures reappear in the attractive finale. Whilst Damase may not be that well-known, the other French composers are far more prominent. Lili Boulanger is represented by D’un Matin de Printemps, familiar in its orchestral guise but heard here in the first recording of this arrangement which successfully retains its excitingly verdant writing and themes, its fervent, fearless almost anti-languorous ésprit. Boulanger died the same year she composed it.

Ibert’s Deux Interludes dates from 1946. The first of the two is rather baroque-leaning, melancholy in its lovely lyricism, whilst the second is a more overtly Iberian affair, fast and lively but with a similar transparency and clarity. Jeremy Polmear doubles on the cor anglais here, taking Rodrigo’s use of the instrument in Concierto de Aranjuez as a precedent.

The disc is in decidedly demarcated sections, Sections One and Two - effectively stamped Fabriqué en France and Made in England respectively – though of course one can programme things how one chooses. Delius’ Intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda really is, unlike the Boulanger, a languorous affair, heard in Eric Fenby’s 1987 arrangement. Gordon Jacobs’ Trio was composed just a few years earlier than the Damase. It too is in four movements and is largely neo-classical. It evokes a reflective lyric pensiveness as well as frolicsome wit – the throwaway ending of the scherzo is a tonic, and Anthony Robb reaches for the prescribed piccolo for a most dashing finale.

The final works are among the most intriguing. Edward Woodall Naylor (1867-1934) was a contemporary of Delius but hardly as august; he was an organist with a long association with Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from the library of which comes this brief Trio. Composed in 1924 and heard here in a premiere recording it’s not six minutes in length and cast as a moderato of dappled lyricism. A miniature, yes, but a delightful one. Finally, there is Eugene Goossens’ Pastoral and Harlequinade, written in the same year as Naylor’s Trio. The Pastoral is lyrical with some scrunchy harmonies and plenty of birdsong, whilst the Harlequinade is extrovert and engaging, laced with a few moments of Eastern exotica.

This enjoyable and engaging recital is played with a sure sense of the stylistic allegiances of the music – whether pastoral, classical-leaning or more cosmopolitan – and has been well recorded and annotated too – unsigned, so far as I can see, though it’s surely the work of Jeremy Polmear. If you fancy Anglo-French trio time, this disc offers zesty and lyric pleasures.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett

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