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Vive la Différence. Mid-20th century music from Britain and France
Jean-Michel DAMASE (1928-2013)
Trio (1961) [20:11]
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
D'un Matin de Printemps (1918) [4:51]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Deux Interludes (1946) [2:59 + 3:52]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda (1910) [4:24]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Trio (1958) [12:02]
Edward NAYLOR (1867-1934)
Trio (1924) [5:28]
Eugene GOOSSENS (1893-1962)
Pastoral and Harlequinade (1924) [7:034]
Anthony Robb (flute)
Jeremy Polmear (oboe)
Michael Bell (piano)
rec. 2018, All Saints Church, East Finchley, London
OBOE CLASSICS CC2035 [61:00]

There's no justice, but inevitably the spotlight here falls on the two wind instruments. They sit next to each other in the orchestra and in this context if the flute is a sweet luscious peach the oboe is a tart Seville orange with a piercing tone. Michael Bell's piano is supportive and sensitive.

This personably played and sensibly recorded recital falls into two sections. As the title suggests these are: Gallic and British. The boundaries between the two are not sharply defined. Without taking anything away from the individuality of the composers, the music's ideas and treatments tend to melt and flow around national frontiers.

The Damase Trio, across and within its four movements, moves carefree between a firm jaw-set to cloudless Poulencian delight. Damase's dodging in and out of shade and his insouciance continually engage the listener. Here is a composer who is little known and since his death six years ago has had his music out in the daylight far too little. That said, you can hear him at pleasurable length on Dutton, Harp & Co and Nimbus.

Lili Boulanger's D'un Matin de Printemps has its dank depths, perhaps suggestive of the four years that preceded its writing. This aspect is balanced with virtuosic flourishes. We should not forget her more ambitious works.

Ibert's Deux Interludes were written the year after the end of the war. They derive from the music he wrote for the Susanne Lilar play The Seducer. The first of them has a baroque melancholy while the other is deeply and very pleasantly indebted to France's lingering affair with Spain.

The Delius Intermezzo - classic Delius - is better known from its orchestral guise, if hardly at all as part of the opera. Interesting that the slow twisting flute solo at 2:00 evokes "the fountain scene " from Delius's Hassan, music that lay thirteen years in the future. Goossens, who is represented in this collection, conducted Hassan's London premiere. Eric Fenby made this comely arrangement in 1987 for the Oriel Trio. The orchestral original of the Intermezzo has been recorded quite a few times. The whole opera can be heard on Warner (Meredith Davies) and Chandos (Richard Hickox).

Gordon Jacob was as prolific as Malcolm Arnold and Bohuslav Martinů. His four- movement trio was written, as the really excellent liner notes recount, for the Sylvan Trio (John Francis, Joy Boughton and Millicent Silver). This tight, well calculated and moodily tuneful piece is resourceful. It has ideas that are fey, tangy and sprightly. Some of his twists and skirls do sound rather like Malcolm Arnold but none the worse for that.

Edward Naylor's is a name not often encountered. His claims to a sort of fame rest with his 1911 motet Vox Dicentis. So church music was as much his grappling hook on public consciousness, as it was for Edgar Bainton (his motet And I Saw a New Heaven) and Balfour Gardiner (Evening Hymn). A spread of Naylor's church music can be heard on Regent. Beyond that there are quite a few works in various genres. Amongst these there is a song, The Charge of the Light Brigade and an orchestral overture intriguingly called Tokugawa. In the early years of the last century Naylor looked set for operatic eminence. His opera The Angelus, "A romantic opera in a Prologue and four Acts" was performed at Covent Garden in 1909. For it he received a £500 prize offered by Ricordis in their English opera competition. In this he pipped Holst's Sita to the post. It was revived by the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1921. Extracts from both Sita and The Angelus could at one time be heard on an Opera Viva double LP. This is the first recording of the Trio which is a tirelessly melodious and happy miniature running to about five and a half minutes.

Eugene Goossens' bipartite Pastoral and Harlequinade (under its French name: Pastorale et Arlequinade) has appeared on disc before - from Chandos. It's a work that has a Grainger-like alternative instrumentation under which either the Flute or the Oboe can be substituted for by the violin. The work is dedicated to Léon Goossens. It's a sultry piece, the Mediterranean tones of which suggest Pan or Debussy's Faun. The Harlequinade - occasionally rather Baxian - is chirpy but cannot resist being drawn back to the half-sleepy ecstasy of the Pastoral.

The 12-page booklet presents the background to these pieces in engaging detail. My only quibble would be that the work timings and composer dates that appear white on black on page 3 should have been reproduced on the back insert sheet of the CD.

Rob Barnett

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