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Musgrave: Chamber Works For Oboe / Nicholas Daniel

Musgrave / Daniel / Farrall / Watkins
Release Date: 04/09/2013 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 907568   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Emer McDonoughNicholas DanielJoy FarrallHuw Watkins,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Thea Musgrave came to the attention of music lovers through a series of recordings (mostly on Arabesque in the U.S.) that appeared around the late 1970s and early ’80s, above all her opera Mary Queen of Scots. Since then her work has appeared on a variety of labels, often on collections devoted to women composers. A genuine talent, it’s good to see her getting a whole album to herself, even if chamber music featuring solo oboe is a somewhat esoteric corner of the repertoire.

Judging from the sound of these works, Musgrave must have been relieved when the serial movement collapsed, since her more recent pieces (Night Windows, for oboe and piano; Cantilena, for oboe and string trio; Take Two Oboes; and Threnody for English horn
Read more and piano) are notably more melodic and fluent than the earlier ones (the two Impromptus, for flute and oboe, and for flute, oboe, and clarinet respectively; and the Trio for flute, oboe, and piano). Not that these early pieces aren’t well-written—they are, but they also are less approachable than the later pieces. Somewhere in between comes Niobe, for oboe and tape, which is actually very moving and atmospheric, the taped sounds providing an imaginative and above all musical accompaniment to the oboe’s lament.

One thing is certain: the performances are magnificent. Nicholas Daniel is an amazing artist, with a sweet tone, even throughout its range, limitless breath control, and an amazing dynamic range. He can play at a genuine pianissimo, even at the very top of his register. There are some tricky unison passages in the second movement of Night Windows for oboe and piano that are stunningly well articulated. Musgrave couldn’t ask for a more passionate or expert advocate, and it’s easy to understand why these later works were written with Daniel in mind. His colleagues are equally adept, especially Joy Farrall on clarinet, and Huw Watkins, who provides’ sensitive piano accompaniments.

That said, I wouldn’t play all 72 minutes of this program at a sitting. For all of Daniel’s artistry, the timbre of the oboe is still fatiguing in large doses, and the engineering favors the instrument (with its attendant clicking valves). So take it in stages. Even with the understanding that this disc is likely to appeal to a limited audience, it’s good to see Musgrave, now in her mid 80s, still going strong.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Impromptu no 2 for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Emer McDonough (Flute), Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), Joy Farrall (Clarinet)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970; Scotland 
2. Impromptu no 1 for Flute and Oboe by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), Emer McDonough (Flute)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; Scotland 
3. Night Windows by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), Huw Watkins (Piano)
Written: 2007 
4. Threnody by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (English Horn), Huw Watkins (Piano)
Written: 1997 
5. Take Two Oboes by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), James Turnbull (Oboe)
Written: 2007 
6. Cantilena by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Susie Mészáros (Viola), Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), Levon Chilingirian (Violin),
Philip De Groote (Cello)
Written: 2008 
7. Niobe by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (Oboe)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987 
8. Trio for Flute, Oboe and Piano by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Emer McDonough (Flute), Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), Huw Watkins (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Intmiate composer portrait November 13, 2013 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Oboist Nicholas Daniel is uniquely qualified to present this program (which is probably why he did so). Daniel commissioned a concerto from Thea Musgrave, and the working relationship they established gives Daniel special insight into Musgrave's music. This recording brings together Musgrave's compositions for the oboe in chamber settings, and represent over fifty years of compositional development. <br /> <br /> The earliest work is the Trio for flute, oboe and piano (1960). To my ears it sounds academically atonal, as was the fashion then. And yet, it's not at all harsh or unmusical. The inherent lyricism of Musgrave might be buried, but it's lying very close to the surface.<br /> ,br&gt; The featured piece, Night Windows for oboe and piano, is more recent, dating from 2007. Based on a Edward Hopper painting of the same name (which appears on the cover), Night Windows is a series of musical sketches, each one delineating a different emotion: loneliness anger nostalgia despair and frenzy. The sparse piano part coupled with the single-line of the oboe present these emotions in a simple and straight-forward manner. Here Musgrave's melodic gifts are to the fore, making this work quite effective and appealing. <br /> <br /> There are some shorter and lighter works on the album, such as the two impromptus and Take Two Oboes, which is just some good natured fun. <br /> <br /> For me, works for live performer and tape don't age well, but Musgrave's Niobe is an exception. Although composed in 1987 for oboe and tape, its atmospheric and ethereal sounds have a timeless aspect. <br /> <br /> The Threnody for cor anglais and piano makes a fitting close to the program. The cor anglais has a warmer and darker sound than the oboe, an the change in timber from the previous oboe pieces almost serves as a coda. The work was commissioned to make the passing of a beloved teacher, Musgrave effectively conveys deep sorrow and a sense of loss without sounding maudlin or trite. <br /> <br /> Daniel plays with a clean, clear tone and is in complete command of this material. He has the ability to be warm and expressive, and to play aggressively and with great agility as the music demands. An unusual but very compelling portrait of a modern master." Report Abuse
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