Woolrich: The Ghost in the Machine; The Barber’s Timepiece; Oboe Concerto; Viola Concerto

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WORKS: The Ghost in the Machine; The Barber’s Timepiece; Oboe Concerto; Viola Concerto
PERFORMER: Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Lars Anders Tomter (viola); BBC SO/Martyn Brabbins
The Ghost in the Machine is the second disc from NMC devoted to the music of John Woolrich. The title is taken from one of the two mechanistic pieces, the other being The Barber’s Timepiece, which have become hallmarks of Woolrich’s music. However, each of these post-Birtwistle juxtapositions of musical automation against free-flowing sentiment acts merely as a curtain-raiser to one of the two substantial concertos in this generous programme. The Oboe Concerto is a magnificent achievement that should be heard by anyone who doubts the distinctiveness of Woolrich’s voice amongst the wealth of cross-cultural references that permeate his music. Juxtaposition is again a key feature, with lyrical soloist set against implacable orchestra, though the protagonist is aided and abetted by three further oboes and a soprano saxophone. Always a pleasure to hear, Nicholas Daniel is typically outstanding in this gripping musical drama. The ‘seven bleak and brooding songs-without-words’ of the Viola Concerto are genuinely moving and reward repeated listening, even if the reliance on the ‘farewell’ motif from Beethoven’s Les adieux Sonata can wear a little thin. Lars Anders Tomter is an eloquent soloist and the BBC SO under Brabbins is in very good form. Christopher Dingle