Musgrave: Chamber Works for Oboe

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COMPOSERS: Thea Musgrave
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Musgrave: Chamber Works for Oboe
WORKS: Chamber Works for Oboe: Night Windows; Impromtus Nos. 1 & 2; Cantilena; Trio; Take Two Oboes; etc
PERFORMER: Nicholas Daniel (oboe/cor anglais); Emer McDonough (flute), James Turnbull (oboe), Joy Farrall (clarinet), Huw Watkins (piano); Chilingrian Quartet


This is a welcome collection, and certainly not just for oboe aficionados. With its sure-footed gestural pacing, Thea Musgrave’s elegantly taut music is thoroughly absorbing and Nicholas Daniel’s seemingly effortless musicality is always a pleasure to encounter. There are equally fine contributions from Daniel’s interchanging roster of partners making it seem ironic that the disc opens with a movement titled ‘Loneliness’. This comes from Night Windows, one of four works here written for Daniel. Each of its five movements captures a mood and, in the process, showcases facets of Daniel’s craft, from controlled yearning in the high register to brightly incisive articulation. It’s all captured in natural sound.

Cantilena finds the oboe starting as an outsider to a string trio, both musically and physically, gradually joining from a distance. The much earlier Impromptus are more anarchic, though never hard-edged, and in the intertwining lines of Take Two Oboes Daniel and James Turnbull are clear having enormous fun. The greatest contrast comes with the lamenting oboe and tape piece, Niobe. Ironically, the tape is the most dated sound, for what emerges, whether in the incisive textures of the 1960 Trio or the 2005 Threnody, is the constancy of Musgrave’s voice.


Christopher Dingle