David Dubery is among a now substantial number of composers who have been encouraged to write for the recorder by John Turner. In David’s case this has encompassed not only works for recorder and piano, but also those scored for it in chamber music and songs, some of which are included on this disc. However, the programme begins with his Sonatina for oboe and piano. Its three brief movements skilfully capture the character of the oboe; its agility in the opening Allegro vivace , its plaintive voice in the central Moderato and both in the Presto – meno mosso – tempo primo finale.
The Three Songs to Poems by Robert Graves for mezzo-soprano, recorder and piano, Four Songs for mezzo-soprano and piano (to poems by Douglas Gibson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Jonathan Swift and Hilaire Belloc) and a setting of Christina Rossetti’s Remember for voice and piano, reveal David’s particular sensitivity in word setting and vocal expression, especially in such contrasting songs as Graves’s Under the Olives and Swift’s Onyons .
Degrees of Evidence for recorder, oboe and viola was composed at the request of John Turner as a companion piece to Peter Crossley-Holland’s Trio for the same unusual scoring. Four of the six movements are recorded here and reveal just what a beguiling combination of instruments this is. Escapades is also a trio in which another unusual but effective scoring, for recorder, bassoon and piano, explores moods and textures in intimate instrumental conversations, mostly introspective in the first three movements, but more light-hearted in the Poco agitato finale
Also composed at the request of John Turner, Two Stopfordian Impressions , depicts two well-known Stockport landmarks. Pinchbelly Park (the name given to Vernon Park by the poor mill workers who built it in the 1850s) captures the park’s atmosphere on a winter’s day and concludes with a quotation from Elgar’s Salut d’amour , which will almost certainly have been heard from its bandstand. The Glass Umbrella is the name acquired by Stockport’s magnificent cast iron and glass covered market hall. Its bustling activity is evoked, and we also hear the cascading of the bells in nearby St Mary’s Church tower and a brief reference to Christians Awake , the famous Christmas hymn composed by John Wainwright of Stockport.
In the three concise movement of the Sonata for cello and piano David again demonstrates his ability to capture the essence of the instruments for which he is writing. The Vivace first movement is an energetic fanfare, but with an occasional hint of wistfulness; the middle movement Lento is a flow of melody over warm harmonies. The finale opens and closes stormily, but a central Lento section echoes the mood of the middle movement.
Walking Cimbrone , descriptively programmatic and inspired by a stray dog encountered on a visit to Italy, is a concert piece for bassoon and piano, and for which the bassoon’s characteristic ability to combine humour and expressiveness makes it the ideal instrument.
The repertoire for recorder and guitar includes some very effective works, to which David’s four-movement Harlequinade is a significant addition. The writing for both instruments is entirely idiomatic in the poise of the dance-like delicacy and robust energy, especially in the concluding Arlechino .
Mrs Harris in Paris , a deliciously elegant concert waltz in the best traditions of the genre (in its arrangement for recorder and piano), concludes this attractively contrasted programme.
Whilst some contemporary composers work at the cutting edge of modernity, others are content to explore creatively more conventional forms and idioms, and in so doing present players and, importantly, listeners alike with a very different but essential set of challenges and rewards. David Dubery is firmly among the latter, as the music and the dedicated performances on this disc demonstrate – buy it, and discover for yourselves that this music is indeed a treat for listeners too.