The York Press, 14 January 2012
By Martin Dreyer
ONCE again it was the British Music Society that was first out of the blocks in the New Year, with an imaginative programme on Thursday linking 20th-century English composers with Poulenc and the Bohemian Jan Kalivoda.
We are much more used to finding the oboe in an orchestra than taking the spotlight in recital.
More’s the pity. Next to the French horn, it has immense emotional potential, as James Turnbull proved.
For years controversy smouldered over whether fuller ‘French’, or reedier ‘English’, tone best suited the instrument. Turnbull’s combination of both, leaning towards the French, made a happy compromise.
Britten’s grasshopper was more of a praying mantis, swooping crisply, while his wasp whirred angrily. They made an unusual intro to Poulenc’s sonata, where Craig White’s subtle piano underlined the composer’s romantic tendencies. Together the duo distilled a calm Élégie and a lyrical finale, sandwiching an idiomatically quirky Scherzo.
It was Vaughan Williams’s Six Studies in English Folk Song – in Robert Stanton’s version for cor anglais rather than the composer’s original cello – that really unveiled Turnbull’s capabilities. His creamy timbre and strong breath control crystallised the essence of these melodies, though the sashaying lady in the fifth song was partnered by a dragoon, not the stated dragon.
Edward Longstaff’s whimsical elegy to Aegeus, Finzi’s pastoral Interlude and a Kalivoda salon piece in Schubertian style made a lighter-weight second half to an evening that surprised and stimulated in equal measure.