Well, this CD is nothing if not consistent: I had previously heard of neither the composer, nor of any of the performers, nor even the label. Not to worry, though: The disc is a delight from beginning to end. David Dubery writes in a style that is both immediately accessible and richly rewarding. The lyricism of this very tonal music is underpinned by harmonies that are imaginative and unexpected. This is, in short, fun music to listen to, and I’m sure, to perform as well. Dubery was born in South Africa in 1948, and received his training in Manchester, England, where he studied at the Northern School of Music. In composition, he was largely self-taught. On the basis of this recital, he clearly prefers miniature forms to large-scale ones; his other interests include photography and dance.
The Sonatina for Oboe and Piano is a felicitous work, the epitome of brevity, with insouciant rhythms and harmonies leaving one wishing for more. The song cycles were written for various singers including Bernadette Greevy. They range in mood from a dreamy to a rollicking jazzy style. Their shifts in modality remind me a good bit of the songs of American composer Richard Hundley. All of them are exquisitely brought across by mezzo-soprano Adrienne Murray, although her pretty, light voice has more of a lyric than a mezzo sound.
Dubery’s Two Stopfordian Impressions are a tribute to the birthplace of recorder player John Turner. (Stockport: I gave up long ago attempting to discern any rhyme or reason for either the pro nunciation of place names in the U.K., or the names for their residents. Compare also Liverpool with its residents, Liverpudlians or Scousers.) Turner’s artistry is heard on fully half of the pieces in this col lection, which is fine with me. The recorder is hardly over-represented in contemporary works for chamber ensemble, and Dubery writes in a most ingratiating manner for the instrument. His music, of course, is aided by Turner’s crystalline pure sound. “Pinch Belly Park” depicts a walk through a melan cholic winter landscape, and “The Glass Umbrella” describes the lively market found at Stockport.
The suite from Degrees of Evidence again features Turner, along with oboist Richard Simpson and violist Richard Williamson. It is a delightful concoction, with lines thrown around in a playful manner among the three instruments, but only four of its six movements are heard here. Dubery has also made arrangements of the suite for string quartet, and for chamber orchestra. The title is drawn from chapter heading class 4, “Intellect,” from Roget’s Thesaurus. The music is anything but cere bral in style. Much more somber is Dubery’s song Remember, based on a text by Christina Rossetti from her anthology Goblin Market published in 1862.
Like many of the other pieces in this recital, Dubery’s Cello Sonata has a playful opening, but the playfulness is interspersed with moments of a subdued and quiet character. More than in the other pieces, I hear the use of a whole-tone scale in this work. The work began life as a sonata for double bass and piano, but when the commission fell through, Dubery reworked it as a cello sonata. I can relate, and suspect that most composers could tell similar stories. None of us are about to waste a good piece. The lento middle movement of the work depicts a walk that the composer took in the hills above Verenna (Lake Como region) in Italy. The sonata ends with a tempestuous Latin-infused Energico.
Escapades was written for John Turner and bassoonist Graham Salvage, who perform it here along with pianist Paul Janes. Its first movement is characterized by constantly changing metrical and musical contours, and is less overtly tonal than the earlier pieces on the CD. The second movement subtly evokes the mysteries of the orient, the third interweaves lyrical and rhapsodic phrases, and the fourth summons an atmosphere of neoclassical lightheartedness.
The bassoon is also featured in Walking Cimbrone. Its inspiration came from a dog that attached himself to the composer during a vacation in Italy. The piece is in free form, containing several most ly lively sections, and its spirit is quintessentially French in its Poulencian exuberance.
Harlequinade features two soft instruments, recorder and guitar, in lovely juxtaposition. The combination works wonderfully, leading me to wonder why more composers haven’t written for this pair of instruments. The name comes from the English adaptation of the Italian commedia dell’arte. an interest of the composer dating back to his days in high school, when he was cast in the role of Florindo in Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters. The multimovement work uses recorders in var ious ranges. The last movement of this very tonal work is a lively exercise resolutely in D Major.
The brief closing work, Mrs. Harris in Paris (Valse Temptation), calls for recorder with piano accompaniment, although Dubery has also scored it for recorder and chamber orchestra. The waltz depicts a Cockney charlady, Mrs. Ada Harris, who, obsessed with owning an original Dior dress, manages to get to Paris to acquire same. The “temptation” in the subtitle comes from the name given by the House of Dior to the dress purchased by Mrs. Harris. The work conjures up an atmosphere of the/in de siecle Paris.
There is nothing not to like about this CD if you’re interested in pleasing and well-crafted tonal music, full of charm and life. Performances and recording leave nothing to be desired, and the disc is highly recommended to the large percentage of Fanfare readers who would enjoy it.