Oboe music by
Born in 1937, Edwin Roxburgh is a composer whose work should have a far higher profile than it does, for he is a fine craftsman with an astute ear and a real sense of structural design. He clearly hears what he writes and has, over the years, explored the idioms and resources without ever using these dialects or expressions simply because they are on offer. Every organisational process and technical investigation serves a musical purpose, and this is more than evident in this collection of his oboe music, given superb performances by Christopher Redgate -- the most distinguished of contemporary oboe players, with pianist Stephen Robbins and Ensemble Exposť conducted by composer Roger Redgate.
Roxburgh is an oboe player, and this naturally gives authority to his writing for the instrument. The explorations of 'multiphonics' (the technique of producing several notes at once) are his own, and are made to fit the needs of the compositions rather than (as was often the case at the height of these woodwind investigations in the 1960s) a cataloguing of possibilities that paraded as composition. He began as principal oboe of what is now the English National Opera, and became a well respected interpreter of the most challenging contemporary solo repertoire. As a conductor, Roxburgh has also directed performances of a wide range of new music, lavishing care and commitment on scores that may otherwise have been left dormant.
The recital on this disc need not disturb any who fear that over an hour of oboe music may weigh too heavily upon the ear. There is rich variety in Roxburgh's output for the instrument -- and the music covers a period of over thirty years, from Images of 1967 to a solo Study written recently for next year's Barbirolli International Oboe Festival, and which demonstrates the excellent range and control of both composer and performer.
Listen -- Edwin Roxburgh: Study 1
(track 1, 4:10-5:00) © 2008 Divine Art Ltd
The three movements of Aulodie were written for the 80th birthday of Léon Goossens in 1976 and are a glimpse into an amiable side of the Roxburgh personality.
Listen -- Edwin Roxburgh: Hermes (Aulodie)
(track 3, 0:00-1:09) © 2008 Divine Art Ltd
In Eclissi (1971) a journey from the multiphonic explorations of the oboe, glissandi, flutter tonguing and extending the range to the highest level- appropriately supported by a string trio -- ends in a world of traditional normality, like the eclipse of the title.
Listen -- Edwin Roxburgh: Eclissi
(track 6, 6:52-8:05) © 2008 Divine Art Ltd
The most substantial pieces in this recital are an Elegy, written in 1982 to remember the oboist Janet Craxton and scored for oboe, clarinet, violin, cello and percussion with electronic modulation and amplification of the oboe, and Antares for oboe and piano. This work, written for the 90th birthday of Goossens, neatly enfolds its extended techniques with a magical piano accompaniment.
Listen -- Edwin Roxburgh: Antares
(track 7, 3:16-4:41) © 2008 Divine Art Ltd
Cantilena for oboe and piano was written in memory of Adrian Cruft, a colleague on the staff of the Royal College of Music, who died in 1987. Here again is Roxburgh's gift for creating broad lyrical lines spread over an intricate tapestry of accompaniment.
Listen -- Edwin Roxburgh: Cantilena
(track 9, 5:36-6:59) © 2008 Divine Art Ltd
This recording, made earlier this year at Kinston University in Surrey (with its generous support) is not only exquisitely performed, but clearly and sympathetically balanced. Roxburgh well deserves it, and it is to be hoped that his orchestral, choral and vocal pieces will not be long in following.
Copyright © 29 November 2008
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK
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