Having spent time with Tully Potter during the Tertis International Competition this year, I was touched to find that he had re-listened to my CD, An English Renaissance. He has posted this piece about the amazing riches of English chamber music for oboe and strings which has triggered discussion since. Thanks to Jeremy Polmear for positing this on the Oboe Classics site and to Jane Walker, Nick Daniel, Chris Marshall et al for joining in. Tully Potter “THE ENGLISH OBOE RENAISSANCE” Thanks to Léon Goossens and his influence, we have a wealth of English chamber music for oboe and strings. I am prompted to mention it, because I have been enjoying George Caird’s 2004 CD (Oboe Classics CC2009) entitled ‘An English Renaissance’. With five very fine string players including his wife Jane Salmon, violinist Simon Blendis, violist Louise Williams and two different second violinists, Caird plays the Quintets by Elizabeth Maconchy, Dorothy Gow and Arthur Bliss and the Fantasy Quartets by Britten and E.J. Moeran. Although I find the one-movement Gow piece a little austere, it does loosen up towards the end. The rest of the disc is all familiar to me musically and, if you will pardon the pun, absolutely Blissful. There is only one overlap with the lovely 1984 CD by Sarah Francis and the English String Quartet (Chandos CHAN 8392), and that is the Moeran, which I can happily have twice in my collection – the two performances are quite distinct, what with different recording characteristics and the individual personalities of the two oboists. Francis’s other pieces are the great Quintet by Arnold Bax, four pieces for quintet by Gustav Holst and Gordon Jacob’s typically enjoyable Quartet. A very individual oboist was Janet Craxton, whom I often heard in concert or in orchestras. An interesting and rewarding disc of her London Oboe Quartet (Oboe Classics CC2011) features works for oboe and strings by Francis Routh, Elizabeth Maconchy (a late Quartet, as opposed to the very early Quintet), Richard Stoker, Nicola LeFanu, Lennox Berkeley and Elizabeth Lutyens (‘Driving out the Death’, Op. 81). For another Lutyens piece by Craxton with the London Oboe Quartet (‘O Absalom…’, Op. 122) you need to seek out a BBC disc (BBC CD 635). Craxton’s playing in all these varied pieces is full of character – she had a very individual speaking voice and somehow it was echoed in her oboe tone! I should mention a few historic performances by Goossens and his pupils. He recorded the Bax Quintet in 1927 with André Mangeot’s International Quartet for the NGS (now on Oboe Classics CC2005). Helen Gaskell and the Griller Quartet, the original performers of the Maconchy Quintet, recorded it in 1933 for HMV (now on Dutton CDBP 9762 with the two other prizewinning works in the 1932 Daily Telegraph competition, string quartets by Edric Cundell and Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, as well as a later Griller recording of Bax’s First Quartet). Evelyn Rothwell (Lady Barbirolli) recorded William Wordsworth’s Oboe Quartet in 1958 with the Robert Masters String Trio for the BBC (now on Barbirolli Society SJB 1045-46). I think that’s enough oboe music for now…”

  • Tags: