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Michael HEAD (1900-1976)
Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano (*1935) [11:09]
Peter HOPE (b. 1930)
Four Sketches (2003) [12:46]
Daniel BALDWIN (b. 1978)
Awatovi (2012) [9:04]
André PREVIN (1929-2019)
Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano (1995) [19:19]
Andare Trio
Rec. 2019, Łódź, Poland
DUX 1719 [52:19]

Here’s a rarity – a disc of wind and piano music featuring music by neither Poulenc nor Hindemith! The excellent Andare Trio have come up with four pieces for their combination of oboe, bassoon and piano, three of which I found highly enjoyable.

Michael Head is probably best known for lovely miniatures such as the song ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’, and indeed wrote very little other than vocal music. Which makes it the more remarkable what a lively and entertaining piece his Trio is (*written in 1935, by the way, not ‘ca 1919’ as the CD notes say). It does owe something to Poulenc, with its jaunty neo-classical feel, and the way the music often changes suddenly from staccato chattering to smooth lyricism. At just eleven minutes, it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome, and is given a sharply characterised performance by the Adares.

Peter Hope’s Four Sketches were something of a discovery for me. I had never come across his music before – he has enjoyed a highly successful creative career, often working as a composer and arranger in the film industry. But his concert music includes a significant number of works for wind instruments, and he writes imaginatively and highly idiomatically for the instruments in these short movements. His writing for the piano is ideal, being light enough to let the wind instruments effortlessly through the texture. All four of Hope’s movements are enjoyable, but the final one on track 7, Dance, is a cracker!

Far less successful is Awatavi by American composer Daniel Baldwin. Though it contains some interesting writing for the oboe and bassoon, it’s quite a tedious piece, and its attempt at evoking the story of Awatavi, a ruined village of the Hopi tribe in Arizona, falls short of providing anything really compelling. Musical ‘wokery’, some might say!

Things however improve sharply again, with the last work on the CD, André Previn’s engaging Trio of 1995. This is probably the most technically demanding piece of the four, as well as musically the most complex. As you might expect from Previn, there are hints of jazz here and there, and many complex rhythms; but there is also a fine expansive melody in the first movement, and expressive writing in the second. Referring to this movement, the booklet notes comment that ‘….the piano becomes a sui generis commentator on the harmonic and melodic dependencies between the oboe and bassoon’. OK; but I’ve no idea what that means – have you? (to be fair, the original is in Polish, so something may have been mislaid in translation!). Nonetheless, it is a lovely, if melancholy, piece, and provides a little darkness before the cheerful finale marches – slightly drunkenly! – in.

My thanks and congratulations to these terrific musicians for producing this surprisingly delightful disc.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Performers: Agata Piotrowska-Bartoszek (oboe), Dorata Cegielska (bassoon), Tomasz Bartoszek (piano)

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