oboe by Howarth www.howarth.uk.com
to main catalogue
Recordings to celebrate the world of the oboe


(click what you want to see)
English Accents CD cover
Other 'historical' CDs: Rare Goossens CD cover The French Accent CD cover The Oboe 1903-1953 CD cover

(click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips)

photo of Peter Graeme
1. Michael Winfield
       Delius: Intermezzo from Fennimore and Gerda
2. Leonard Brain and Sidney Sutcliffe
       Mozart: Minuet from Divertimento K 289
3. Edward Selwyn Bach: Ich habe genug
4. Janet Craxton Handel: G minor Concerto, 1st movt
5. Léon Goossens Mozart: Concerto,1st movt
6. Evelyn Rothwell Corelli Concerto, 1st & 2nd movts
7. John Barnett Britten: Prince of the Pagodas, excerpt
8. Joy Boughton Britten: Arethusa
9. Sidney Sutcliffe and Natalie James
        Mozart: C minor Serenade, 1st movt
10. Terence MacDonagh
        J. C. Bach: Symphony Op. 18/2, 2nd movt
11. Janet Craxton Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, excerpts
12. Roger Lord Brahms: Violin Concerto, excerpt
13. Roger Lord and Michael Dobson
       Handel: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
14. Peter Graeme
       Handel: Concerto Grosso Op. 3 No. 2, 2nd movt
15. Sidney Sutcliffe
        Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, 2nd movt
16 and 17. Everybody
       Handel: Fireworks Music, Bourrées and Minuets

Total time 71:02

John Barnett (track 7) has written an entertaining account of his experience
recording tracks 16 and 17. He was at the back of the oboists, and is obscured
by the CD title. He is in need of PROMOTION (PDF format).

The 24-page CD booklet contains a historical perspective by oboist and scholar Geoffrey Burgess,
and discussions on the English oboe school, the playing styles and the performances on the CD.

An extract from the historical perspective in the CD booklet by Geoffrey Burgess:

Over the past half century a curious reversal has taken place. Whereas a wider range of regional accents in spoken English has become officially accepted, there has been a distinct shift in oboe playing tone and style away from diversity and towards homogeneity. In the 1950s there was a single, pervasive official English spoken accent: the inimitable Richard Dimbleby’s commentaries of great national events, such as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, became the voice of the British Empire. But while the Queen’s English reigned supreme on the air waves, there was no definitive ‘correct’ British style of oboe playing: rather players cultivated their own distinctive accents, influenced by a variety of different traditions.

Today, however, BBC announcers use a multitude of different accents, but it is striking to what degree the uniformity of tone and approach among English oboists defies regional or personal identification.

After the initial years of austerity at the end of the 1940s, employment returned to adequate levels and, with increased average wages and reduced working hours, the general standard of living in Britain rose. This meant not only more leisure time but money for average families to spend on cultural activities such as concerts. Leisure culture in the 50s moved from London society and private country parties to become a middle-class phenomenon. The post-war welfare state not only provided improved education for more of the population, but specialized training in the arts and music, and an expansion of opportunities for musicians. The Liverpool and Birmingham Orchestras had become permanent bodies for the first time during the war; others, like the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia, along with the Edinburgh Festival and the National Youth Orchestra were established hard on the heels of the declaration of peace. Record companies, eager to promote new technology like the LP and full frequency sound, added to the thriving musical economy. The immense popularity of the cinema played its part by providing employment to musicians needed to record a constant stream of sound tracks. But perhaps more than any other institution, the BBC democratized Classical music by broadcasting it to the entire population.

Once recovery from the devastation of the war was under way, people recognized the value in the lasting things of life: the beauty of nature, Classical art and music. Surprisingly, the huge upsurge in concert-going which attracted even factory workers did not result in a drop of standards or the proliferation of popular ‘froth’. On the contrary, there was an increased demand for inspiring musical experiences of high quality that did not shirk contemporary social issues.

And an excerpt from the discussion with Mark Baigent, Neil Black, Christopher Steward (who speaks elswhere, but not in this particular section) and Peter Walden, pondering the question 'was there such a thing as an English oboe school, as distinct from a German or American one?'

photo of Neil Black Neil Black: Yes, there was certainly an English style, because no player of the period could possibly escape the Goossens influence.
Jeremy Polmear: But most other players, including you, don’t play like Goossens.
Neil Black: No, but I admired Goossens, I admired his total control, as if he could do anything. I was also influenced by Terry [Terence] MacDonagh, and indeed tried to imitate his style, but found I couldn’t. I noticed that he had very light reeds, and used the resonance of his own body to make a full but flexible sound.
photo of Peter Walden Peter Walden: Goossens was indeed a strong character in every way. He was a great communicator, he always 'said' something, and it was hard not to come under that influence. But Terry would say to me "Play like you, not like you-know-who, doing rubato all the time." Terry’s goal was to make the sound 'shimmer', especially in the upper register. Delicacy and imagination were all-important to him – “like swansdown”, he would say. But he also went for vast contrasts, digging into the sound like a cellist. In some ways his musicianship couldn’t be contained by the oboe.
Jeremy Polmear: What other strands were there?
Neil Black: Another pupil of Goossens was Peter Graeme, though with his almost vibrato-free style, he perhaps represents what oboe playing in England was like before Goossens came along.
Jeremy Polmear: Some playing, yes; though on a previous Oboe Classics CD Goossens is quoted as saying that his predecessor at the Queen’s Hall Orchestra, William Malsch, was dropped because his tone set Sir Henry Wood’s teeth on edge!
Peter Walden: Then there is Roger Lord, playing with less rubato than some, but with an incredible sense of line, like a good singer.
Jeremy Polmear: Mark, you are too young to have known these players personally. Do you hear a ‘school’ of playing here, something they have in common? photo of Mark Baigent
Mark Baigent: It’s an open and bright sound, free and fluid. There is a beautiful singing quality in so many of these solos. The willingness to put in rubatos means that the rhythms are fluid, and the style is plaintive. Some of the phrases are very long! Vibrato is an inherent part of the sound compared to some other schools where there is either no vibrato, or quite a fast uncontrolled one, but nothing purposeful, slow and mannered as you hear in this recording. I believe the English thumbplate oboe system, where you take the thumb off instead of adding a finger for c, helps to create that open sound to some degree; the conservatoire ring system oboes I have of that time seem to have a different inherent quality.

Other Performers:
The other musicians and recording dates are as follows:

1. Hallé Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli (c. 1956)
2. Dennis Brain Wind Ensemble: Leonard Brain & Sidney Sutcliffe (oboes); Dennis Brain & Neill Sanders (horns);
John Alexandra & Paul Draper (bassoons) (1952)
3. Edward Selwyn Gérard Souzay (baritone), Geraint Jones Orchestra, Geraint Jones (c. 1958)
4. Collegium Musicum Londinii, John Minchinton (c. 1959)
5. Sinfonia of London, Colin Davis (1960)
6. Hallé Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli (c. 1957)
7. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Benjamin Britten (c. 1956)
8. (1952)
9. London Baroque Ensemble: Sidney Sutcliffe & Natalie James (oboes); Jack Brymer & Stephen Waters (clarinets);
Cecil James & Edward Wilson (bassoons); Dennis Brain & Neill Sanders (horns); Karl Haas (1957)
10. RPO, Charles Gerhardt (c. 1961)
11. Hallé Orchestra, Sir John Barbirolli (1950)
12. Henryk Szerying (violin), LSO, Pierre Monteux (c. 1959)
13. LSO, George Weldon (c. 1953)
14. Boyd Neel Orchestra, with Thurston Dart (organ), Boyd Neel (c. 1955)
15. Gareth Morris (flute), Hugh Bean (violin), Sidney Sutcliffe (oboe) Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer (1960)
16 & 17. Pro Arte Orchestra, Charles Mackerras (1959)

photo of Sidney Sutcliffe

Press Comment

"Younger players can learn such a lot from the phrasing and musicality
of all the oboe playing here. Those things never date!"
Michael Britton, Double Reed News

Listener Comment
(General comments about errors or omissions in the CD
or about the period in general are also welcome.)

"What a fabulous job you have made of it." Michael Winfield

"The Bach track played by Terry MacDonagh is exquisite, both the playing and the music. That first note! Actually I think the CD works really well as a collection of music as well as the oboe interest. The booklet is packed with interesting background and snippets. There is some nice flute playing on some of the tracks too." Edward Holt

"I think the CD is a real eye opener, and puts to rest the conceit that oboe playing has gotten better in the recent past. Faster, yes, but to experience musical intent linked to breath and tone I'll take 'English Accents' any day of the week."
Basil Reeve, former Principal oboe, the Minnesota Orchestra

"I've just been re-reading a book by Malcolm Tillis, who played the viola in the Hallé, in which he describes life in an orchestra. He mentions a visit by Britten; firstly he refers to a rehearsal of the Pas-de-Six from The Prince of the Pagodas: 'Britten was particularly delighted with the oboe solo and gave Mick Winfield [see above. Ed] a special sign of approval.' Referring to the Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, he said that the viola variation was 'far too straight - there should be bigger crescendos, the moving notes should be warmer, and the longer notes could be colder.' It struck me that these comments are the sort of things he might have said about the Prince of the Pagodas oboe solo to produce the 'ebb and flow' that we mention in the CD booklet." Christopher Steward

back to top to main catalogue