BDRS Review of English Oboe:Rediscovered
The mystical opening of Edmund Rubbra’s Sonata grabs the listener’s attention by virtue of James’s Turnbull’s entrancingly sweet, almost flute-like Lorée tones, which display his fine sense of a fluidly controlled rubato. The following, dark Elegy shows superb artistry, while the pastoral rondo of the Finale might profit from a little more incision in both the writing and the dynamic range.
This new release introduces an interesting variety of works spanning over a century, many of which offer novel relief. Edward Longstaff’s (b.1965) Aegeus is another meditative elegy; it describes the legendary king looking out in vain over the sea for the return of his son Theseus (as outlined in the superb programme notes). The composer utilises the full range of the instrument with a purposeful inclusion of multiphonics though, in moments of climax, the voice of the oboe, always beautifully under control, can occasionally be overwhelmed somewhat by the power of the piano.
I was not aware that Robert Schumann ever met Jan Kalivoda for tea at the vicarage. If so, one of the other guests must have been Thomas Attwood Walmisley (1814–1856), an exact contemporary whose charming, warm and gentle- spirited Sonatina No.1 follows, in two movements. A welcome inclusion since so few works of the nineteenth century are available for performance.
Amethyst Deceiver for Solo Oboe, by John Casken (b.1949) is a world premiere recording. Pithy and subtle, the witty playing illuminates a tiny, purple mushroom ‘rarely seen but…with an intense flavour’ that is easily mistaken for another that is highly poisonous. The recorded quality too is a joy. Gustav Holst’s well-known Terzetto for flute, oboe and viola, written in three keys simultaneously, and in two contrasting movements, gains immeasurably from the strikingly dark and well-blended tones of the soloists. Michael Berkeley’s Three Moods for Unaccompanied Oboe was written for Janet Craxton and offers a well-positioned contrast in this recital. While her uniquely personal, slow vibrato that characterised the original performance is lost to us forever, this is a superb playing, dark-toned again and precisely articulated.
Ralph Vaughan Williams’ poignant Six Studies in English Folksong were originally written for the cello but succeed ideally when performed by cor anglais and piano. They require of the player considerable breath control that must be well disguised, along with a beauty of tone. James Turnbull achieves this admirably. The programme notes help- fully detail the specific tunes to which these studies allude.
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