“The English Oboe Rediscovered” is the subject of an extended series of recitals and CD releases in which the young oboist, James Turnbull, is currently involved. In them he gives an insight into the nature of oboe writing during the last fifty or sixty years and the Kendal Midday Concert Club was recently privileged to be part of that undertaking. In his programme, for which he was partnered by the pianist, Libby Burgess, James demonstrated that whilst most composers generally wrote quite conservatively for the instrument there are also many situations for which a very special technique is required.
The three movements of Rubbra’s Oboe Sonata witnessed James’s sweet, flute-like tone, his superb technique that allowed him to negotiate runs and passage work with real precision together with his expressive, spacious phrasing and acute sense of rubato. Libby, a most sensitive partner, did full justice to the taxing piano part and, as throughout the entire recital, secured a perfect balance, despite the piano lid being up on a full stick.
During their performance of Powers’s In Shadow they demonstrated an intimate partnership that effectively explored the relationship between light and shadow; it was remarkable how the sunlight, as it periodically invaded the stage, immeasurably added to the impact of the music.
Elgar’s short, unfamiliar Soliloquy possessed a serenity that contrasted hugely with the grief and anger that was deeply embedded in the score of Michael Berkeley’s Fierce Tears 1. Oboist, with wide-ranging, spiky utterances, and pianist, with hard, dissonant harmonies (frequently liberally amplified by the sustaining pedal), and avant-garde style use of her hands on the strings, complemented each other perfectly.
Richard Rodney Bennett, as is often his wont, lightened the atmosphere with his Four Country Dances. Their inherent rustic quality was impeccably captured by both players who, in continuing their display of impressive performance skills, brought identical qualities to their encore, Britten’s technically-demanding and wonderfully descriptive miniature, The Wasp.