An (almost!) World Premiere recording of Arnold Cooke's two oboe sonatas, the World Premiere recording of Richard Elfyn Jones's Spanish flavoured Oboe Sonata- 'Viva Altea!', and World Premiere recordings of Luminous and Darkness Falling with Birdsong by oboist and composer Catherine Tanner-Williams.
This album brings together oboe music by three composers who are linked by the premiering of each other's works.
Although the British Library lists recordings of radio broadcasts made by Evelyn Rothwell and Sarah Francis, made in the late 1980's, no recordings of Arnold Cooke's lyrical oboe sonatas have been commercially available. Now finally, for the first time in this new recording by Catherine Tanner-Williams and her husband Christopher Williams, they will be released on CD, download and streaming.
"The ensemble playing between both players is extremely good...both musicians also shine individually...Catherine's singing oboe tone, good control of high notes and rich sounding lower register stand out...lovely natural and balanced concert hall feel"
- Sarah Roper, Double Reed News
" I wanted to review this CD primarily because I was quite impressed, in other releases, with the music of Arnold Cooke, who wrote two of the three sonatas presented here. I was not disappointed in that respect. From the very opening of the Sonata for Oboe & Harpsichord or Piano, played here on the latter instrument, I was impressed by the late British composer’s intelligence and ingenuity. Cooke’s music, for those who haven’t heard it, is conventional in its use of form and rhythm but highly imaginative in his use of harmony. The music is primarily bitonal rather than atonal; by using rootless chords and constantly shifting the harmony around as the piece progresses, Cooke was able to convey an essentially lyrical mood without boring the listener with ordinary chord patterns, and his liveliness of rhythm here gives the music a rather upbeat feeling despite the constantly shifting chords. Even within the first movement, there are also general tempo changes from slow to fast, then back and forth again as the music develops.
The second movement is quite pastoral, and the harmony Cooke set up almost sounds a bit Oriental, though this feeling also shifts and changes as the music develops. Catherine Tanner Williams’ bright, penetrating tone is perfect for this music. Her pianist-husband, Christopher Williams, is also a fine musician though I felt that his contribution was a bit more generic in feeling. The last movement of this sonata is whimsical in a devil-may-care sort of way, the music obviously meant to entertain the listener as well as engage his or her mind in the shifting harmonies.
The second Cooke sonata here was written in 1957 for the famed British virtuoso Leon Goossens. The opening movement is extremely tuneful, again, in the solo oboe line, emphasizing the pure legato for which Goossens was famous. Hearing these two sonatas back-to-back, however, one notes a sameness in both material and rhythm in their first movements, which sound as if they stemmed from the exact same template or sketches. The second movement, however, is quite different from its successor, being in a more regular pulse and lacking the Orientalisms of the later work. This third movement, though also somewhat playful, is a bit meatier in its use of material and less airy-whimsical despite a similar tempo. Parts of it are set in 6/8, with almost the feel of British folk dances, albeit with far more sophisticated harmony lifts it above that genre.
Following the Cooke works is the oboe sonata of one Richard Elfyn Jones, a Welsh composer who, to my ears, follows in the footsteps of Cooke as a composer. My ears told me, however, that his music is much more glib and less substantial overall than Cooke’s, and this was in part confirmed by the credits that list him as a composer of music for the Maryland PBS TV series After the Warming and Timeline. Once you step into the worlds of TV or movie score writing, your style becomes compromised in the sense that you begin writing more populist and less purely artistic works. Not that this oboe sonata is a bad work; it’s just very predictable in how the music goes when compared to Cooke’s pieces. I did, however, like the third movement, titled “Barullo!,” very much indeed. It has a sort of Latin jazz swagger to it that is infectious along with interesting harmonic changes, and Tanner Williams is fully up to the challenge—rare for a classically-trained oboist.
Williams’ own piece, Luminous, is a surprisingly original upbeat number using lively, fast-paced eighth-note figures that rise and fall in thirds as the music goes through several harmonic changes, then falls back to a lyrical interlude before resuming its rapid, serrated little path with variations. In this piece, too, Christopher Williams sounded livelier and more fully engaged. At 4:35 the music slows down and in fact comes to a dead stop before resuming its jolly pace in the finale. Williams throws in a swinging passage in more relaxed tempo just before the final chord.
Darkness Falling With Birdsong is one of those nature pieces which hope to capture the feeling one gets from observing everyday events in the earth’s cycle. It’s a very nice little piece, pastoral and warm, with a relaxed feeling about it.
This is one of those rarities, an oboe recital that is uplifting and entertaining in addition to presenting some very good music. I like it overall.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley"
"Oboist Catherine and pianist Christopher's latest work of Strauss, Glinka and Mozart is mature, with impressive depth and range" - The Musician
"The musical rapport and impeccable ensemble on this charming CD are testament to the long musical association of oboist Catherine Tanner-Williams and her husband Christopher Williams...The oboe sound is both warm and plangent, the piano perfectly balanced. Throughout, Catherine Tanner Williams plays with an unaffected and direct musicality, accompanied with a deft and lucid touch by her husband." - Double Reed News
A generous 78min length disc of World Premiere Recordings
featuring 3 pieces by Richard Strauss arranged specially for this CD.
R. Strauss ~ Auf Stillem Waldespfad op.9
R. Strauss ~ Andante Op.3 No.1
R. Strauss ~ Largo Op.3 No.3
R. Strauss ~ Improvisation Op. 18
R. Strauss ~ Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier (trans Otto Singer)
Glinka ~ Romances, Songs and Dances
Mozart ~ Sonata in C K.548
Catherine Tanner-Williams ~ Oboe
Risca Male Choir
Cross Keys Campus Sports Hall
Saturday 7th September 2019
Albinoni - Concerto D Minor Op 9 no 2
Morricone - Gabriel's Oboe
Saint-Saens - Oboe Sonata
With Christopher Williams - Piano
Newport Cathedral, St Woolos 7.30pm
March 21st 2019
World Premiere of Richard Elfyn Jones - Oboe Sonata
Plus sonatas by York Bowen, Poulenc & Saint Saens
With Christopher Williams - Piano
St John's On-The-Hill, Chepstow
12th March 2018
Bude Music Society
25th February 2018
R Strauss, Mozart, Glinka, Saint Saens, Debussy
FOLLOWING the unfortunate cancellation by cellist Barbara Degener, Bude Music Society was extremely lucky to be able to find Catherine Tanner-Williams (oboe) and her husband Christopher Williams (piano) as last-minute replacement artists for the concert on Sunday, February 25 at Minstrels Music Centre.
The programme opened with three pieces for oboe, written by Richard Strauss when he was still at school. These were remarkable in harmony, texture and design and played with complete mastery by Catherine. Her performance of the 2nd movement of the Oboe sonata by Saint-Saens later in the programme was a real joy, particularly the ‘Cadenza’ sections, all of which were accompanied with real sensitivity by Christopher.
The piano solos included Chopin’s formidable Scherzo No1 in B minor, when Christopher played the difficult opening passages with great assurance.
However, it was the ‘Nimble-Fingered Gentleman’ and ‘Railroad Rhythm’ written by the incomparable Billy Mayerl of Latin American Jazz fame which were the highlight of the Piano solos and the programme overall.
Catherine and Christopher also played transcription arrangements for oboe and piano of Mozart’s Mozart’s piano sonata in C major K.548 and ‘Songs and Dances’ by Glinka, where the inclusion of the oboe gave additional interest and dimension to the movements.
Many of the pieces played at the recital were included in a newly-released CD. It was a privilege to have heard them performed ‘in concert’ introduced so thoughtfully by two musicians who engaged naturally with the audience throughout.
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