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The English Oboe: Rediscovered / Turnbull

Rubbra / Turnbull / Burgess
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Champs Hill Records   Catalog #: 51   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Edward LongstaffThomas Attwood WalmisleyJohn CaskenMichael Berkeley,   ... 
Performer:  Libby BurgessJames TurnbullMatthew FeatherstoneDan Shilladay
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

THE ENGLISH OBOE: REDISCOVERED James Turnbull (ob, Eh); Libby Burgess (pn); 1, 2, 3,7 Matthew Featherstone (fl); 5 Dan Shilladay (viola) CHAMPS HILL 51 (68:34)

RUBBRA 1 Oboe Sonata in C. LONGSTAFF 2 Aegeus. WALMISLEY Read more 3 Oboe Sonatina No. 1. CASKEN 4 Amethyst Deceiver for Solo Oboe. HOLST 5 Terzetto. M. BERKELEY 6 Three Moods for Unaccompanied Oboe. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS 7 Six Studies in English Folk Song

Odd title: The English Oboe: Rediscovered . I was not aware that the oboe had gone missing from England, or that it was in need of rediscovery, but I am sure that the many British devotees of the instrument are pleased that this has been accomplished. Certainly, if the instrument needed locating, young English oboist James Turnbull was just the artist to undertake it, and he has selected a wide-ranging and musically satisfying program of pieces by English composers to celebrate its reappearance.

Turnbull is a superb freelance recitalist and chamber musician, and a keen advocate for the oboe and its repertoire. His warmly received first recital disc, Fierce Tears (Quartz), featured British oboe music of the last three decades. In The English Oboe: Rediscovered , he has sifted 160 years of English music to find more works with which to explore his instrument’s expressive capabilities. There are works that come close to being standards of the oboe literature: the gently haunting and serene Edmund Rubbra Sonata in C Major for Oboe and Piano of 1958, and the polytonal—and quite lovely for that—1925 Terzetto for Flute, Oboe, and Viola by Gustav Holst with the parts written in cleverly wrought counterpoint, each in a different key. Both are exquisitely done, the Rubbra in particular gaining from Turnbull’s slightly measured approach. The Ralph Vaughan Williams Six Studies in English Folk Song is a standard, in its original form for cello and piano and in myriad arrangements. It is here transcribed for English horn by Robert Stanton, and the warm earthiness of the solo instrument complements the folk tunes perfectly.

The earliest work is the genially romantic Sonatina in G Minor of early-Victorian composer Thomas Attwood Walmisley, best known for his church music. The work is essentially vocal in style: a lovely cavatina and aria for oboe. It is one of a pair of works written in 1847, presented here in a new performing version by Christopher Hogwood. (The second, equally fine, is available on an Amon Ra collection, played by Robin Canter.)

Three contemporary works complete the program, two by composers Michael Berkeley and John Casken with whom Turnbull enjoys a close working relationship. Berkeley’s Three Moods for Unaccompanied Oboe was written back in 1978, though, for Janet Caxton. Turnbull refuses to hurry the work, creating a poignant reading of these wistful, atmospheric pieces. Edward Longstaff’s 1999 Aegeus for oboe and piano is a tense, dramatic character study of the Athenian king who sent his son to Crete to battle the Minotaur. The oboe represents the voice of Aegeus, and the composer uses extended techniques to portray the king’s anxiety and dread, building to a tortured climax as he waits for his son’s return. Pitch bending and multiphonics are also employed in Casken’s 2007 Amethyst Deceiver , as well as elusive tonality, and often insubstantial, disconnected melodies to suggest the mendacious nature of the edible mushroom which closely resembles a poisonous variety. Turnbull plays the virtuoso work with apparent ease and perfectly captures the “air of mischief” specified by the composer.

The recording was made in the 160 seat Champs Hill recital hall, a private concert venue in West Sussex, an hour and a half from central London. Turnbull’s colleagues are every bit the fine musicians he is. Libby Burgess is his perceptive partner in four of the works. She is technically brilliant where called for, but it is her expressive work in the relatively undemanding Vaughan Williams that has especially caught my ear. Flutist Matthew Featherstone and violist Dan Shilladay are peerless associates in the Holst.

By the way, though Turnbull has “rediscovered” the English oboe, he plays an excellent (French) Lorée Royal oboe and English horn. His tone leans rather more toward the French than the reedier English sound. But never mind—an excellent recital, beautifully recorded and played. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Aegeus, for oboe & piano by Edward Longstaff
Performer:  Libby Burgess (Piano), James Turnbull (Oboe)
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 8 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Sonatina for Oboe and Piano no 1 by Thomas Attwood Walmisley
Performer:  Libby Burgess (Piano), James Turnbull (Oboe)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 8 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Amethyst Deceiver, for oboe by John Casken
Performer:  James Turnbull (Oboe)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2009 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 7 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Moods (3), for solo oboe by Michael Berkeley
Performer:  James Turnbull (Oboe)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1979 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 5 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Studies (6) in English Folksong by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Libby Burgess (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 7 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Terzetto for Flute, Oboe and Viola, H 158 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Matthew Featherstone (Flute), Dan Shilladay (Viola), James Turnbull (Oboe)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 11 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Sonata for Oboe & Piano in C major, Op. 100 by Edmund Rubbra
Performer:  Libby Burgess (Piano), James Turnbull (Oboe)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1958 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK 
Length: 13 Minutes 34 Secs. 

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