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Lamenting Lullaby – English Oboe Quartets

Daniel Bates (oboe), Laura Lutzke (violin), Adam Newman (viola), Hannah Sloane (cello) (Stone Records)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Lamenting Lullaby – English Oboe Quartets
Britten: Phantasy, Op. 2; Iain Farrington: Lamenting Lullaby; G Jacob: Quartet for Oboe and Strings; Moeran: Fantasy Quartet
Daniel Bates (oboe), Laura Lutzke (violin), Adam Newman (viola), Hannah Sloane (cello)
Stone Records 5060192781137   59:27 mins

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This is a fine collection of English oboe quartets, three of which have a link to early-20th-century oboist, Leon Goossens, for whom they were written. It begins with Moeran’s relatively late Fantasy Quartet (1946), an evocative and little known mid-20th century English pastoral, innovative with a modernist twist, picking off various Norfolk folk tunes in its clear-skyed, inventive path. It is played with great expression and depth.

The players also make fine work of Benjamin Britten’s Phantasy, an early work by contrast, composed in 1932 when Britten was a teenage student at the Royal College of Music. The form was inspired by the requirements of a competition he had recently won, by which entrants had to compose a single-movement fantasy in emulation of those played by 17th-century viol consorts. Britten’s Phantasy for oboe and strings is an entirely distinctive work, as he recognised by designating it his Opus 2.

Iain Farrington’s Lamenting Lullaby, premiered in 2018 by this ensemble, is a three part elegy of the ‘quiet grief’ after the death of a child at birth. It is moving, deeply tender, exquisitely played by this ensemble, its final warm, folk inflected ensemble flung in to relief by the echoed notes of the lone oboe. Gordon Jacobs’s lighter 1938 Quartet for Oboe and Strings rounds off this fine programme, continuing the folk echoes where the Farrington left off, nimbly played by the ensemble.

Sarah Urwin Jones

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