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9th London New Wind Festival – a Lutyens Centenary Celebration

30th September 2006 Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, London W1

Charlotte Munro Flute
Catherine Pluygers Oboe
Philip Edwards Clarinet
Henryk Sienkiewicz Horn
Ellie Blackshaw Violin
Robert Coleridge Piano

Talk by Robert Saxton



for Solo Clarinet in A Op 94
Recitative on Cassandra’s Lament for the Oresteia for Solo Oboe Op 53
Footfalls for Flute and Piano Op 128
Trent’s Broad Reaches for Horn and Piano Op 36
Sonatina for flute, oboe and piano (1936)

This Green Tide for Basset Horn and Piano Op 103
Improvization for Oboe and Piano
Horai for Horn, Violin and Piano Op 67

This was a rewarding evening of music by Lutyens and her contemporaries, to celebrate an important centenary in a year dominated in the concert schedules by that of Shostakovich and Mozart's 250th birthday. If you click on the link above, you can listen to Elisabeth Lutyens in interview, which I recommend before reading on.

A controversial figure in her extraordinary lifetime (read her autobiography A Goldfish Bowl or, for a quick on line introduction, check out the entry in Wikipedia with a link to David Wright's essay on Seen&Heard) she is revered by cognoscenti but her music, advanced for its time and English provenance, is rarely played. She earned her living (to support her family) in radio and film (100s of film scores) and turned to serialism to escape this drudgery, which alienated her from the British musical Establishment of the time.

The concert made for tough listening and probably was challenging to prepare. The works were well chosen for variety, but came over variably in communicability as presented at Regent Hall; an attractive venue but not an easy acoustic. The pieces which 'spoke' to us most directly were two that sounded particularly idiomatic and grateful for their instruments, but which are not included in UMP's listing; the solo oboe variations on Cassandra’s Lament (regrettably given less than complete for fear of its outstaying audience receptivity - which I think it would not have) and Footfalls, which allowed Charlotte Munro's flute and Catherine Pluygers' oboe* to delight with the music's expressivity and respect for their limitations.

(composed for that fearless explorer Alan Hacker) pushed the clarinet too far into the realms of screech and painful difference tones. Horai had the hours counted by the horn, playing freely on the numbers 1 to 24, with comments from violin and piano; an intriguing construction which gave us bearings to follow and brought to mind that of Rzewski's piano trio.

Before the interval Elisabeth Lutyen's distinguished pupil, composer Robert Saxton, gave a fascinating lecture about her unswervable integrity as a teacher, ending with extracts from a treasured letter Liz had sent him, epitomising her credo that every note by an aspiring composer be intellectually justified, rather than just following whim and 'feeling'.

Highly recommended CD

(Catherine Pluygers with Matthew Stanley)

Order from Catherine Pluygers

Peter Grahame Woolf