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James Turnbull (oboe) Elizabeth Burgess (Piano)

Benjamin Britten Two Insect Pieces
Thomas Attwood Walmisley Sonatina No. 1
John Woolrich Kingdom of Dreams
Herbert Howells Oboe Sonata

24/11/2011 St John's Smith Square, London, SW1

An exceptionally rewarding, well attended recital at St John's, with an ideally balanced programme.

The little known pieces by Britten (1935) are more substantial than their titles (Grasshopper & Wasp) might lead you to expect. Woolrich's spare, intimate pieces were spell-binding.

Walmisley's ripely romantic sonata is a valuable addition to the oboe repertoire, and the rediscovered Howells sonata deserves to become a recital pillar for oboists who have the stamina it demands. (It remained unplayed and unpublished after Leon Goossens had asked the composer to "take another look at it" c. 1978 (he probably felt it needed shortening?).

At near 25 mins it is perhaps the most substantial oboe sonata extant, and James Turnbull relished it, as did all of us there.

It must surely feature in his next recording, hopefully with his regular partner Elizabeth Burgess, whose contribution to this recital gave huge pleasure.

The duo's approach was pleasantly informal in dress and manner; no leaving the platform between items. Turnbull gave succinct spoken introductions to each piece which helped the audience to feel involved in the event.

James Turnbull's first CD was on sale and is warmly recommended:

Berkeley, Davies X 2, MacMillan, Matthews & Woolrich

Berkeley, Michael: Fierce Tears I & II; Second Still Life for Oboe & Harp
Davies, Maxwell: First Grace of Light for solo oboe
Davies, Tansy: Forgotten Game; Arabesco
MacMillan: In Angustiis II
Matthews, Colin: Night-Spell
Woolrich, John: The Kingdom of Dreams; The Turkish Mouse

James Turnbull (oboe), Huw Watkins (piano) & Claire Jones (harp)

Quartz: CD QTZ2081

A splendid CD of contemporary oboe music compiled by a leading oboist of the younger generation, one whose comprehensive website too is very much of today and well worth exploring.

It includes Woolrich's Paul Klee inspired pieces which impressed us at St John's, and two substantial works with spare accompaniments by Tansy Davies, [L] a favourite younger composer of mine, who finds a distinctive newness for her every work.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Turnbull Photo Chaehong Lim