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Recordings to celebrate the world of the oboe


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Melodic Lines CD cover
Trios with horn: music for oboe, horn and piano CD cover Oboe Trios: Pipers 3 CD cover A mixture of music: World of the Oboe CD cover

(Click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips.)
Jeremy Polmear, Diana Ambache and Philip Gibbon recording the CD, July 13 2006

Casimir-Théophile Lalliet (1837-92): Terzetto, Op 22
Moderato - Andante maestoso - Rondo: Allegro moderato

Geoffrey Bush (1920-98): Trio (1952)
Adagio maestoso, Vivace - Poco lento, Tempo di vivace

Barbara Thompson (b 1944): Green (2006)

Madeleine Dring (1923-77): Trio (1971)
Drammatico, Allegro moderato - Andante sostenuto - Allegro con brio
(A YouTube video of the third movement can be seen here.)

Richard Stoker (b 1938): Four Miniatures, Op 8 (1963)
Ballabile - Duettino - Intermezzo - Scherzando

Francis Poulenc (1899-1963): Trio (1926)
Lent, Presto - Andante con moto - Rondo: Très vif

Total Time 65:04

The 24-page CD booklet has a 6,000 word programme note in English including interviews with
Roderick Swanston (on Geoffrey Bush), Barbara Thompson (on Green), Roger Lord (on Madeleine Dring)
and Richard Stoker (on his Miniatures). There are biographies of the composers and many photographs.

photo of a detail from a Greek vase showing a girl piper, about 450 BC Has melody always been with us? Will it continue to flourish? Yes, and yes. The practise of creating pitched sounds is a universal human phenomenon, and the pentatonic scale has been found in many cultures all over the world. In the West it was present in some of the earliest examples of notated music, such as Gregorian Chant, and is with us today.

The melodies in Lalliet’s Terzetto, for example, are not universal – they are clearly a product of European culture in the 19th Century. But whatever form it takes, the existence of melody itself is universal. It seems likely that melody was linked to communication long before opera was invented; the pre-verbal vocalising of a baby could be said to be a kind of melody, and right from the start comes the idea that melody not just an abstract thing that we happen to like, but that it is linked with an emotional or physical state, and with the communication of that state. Melody is very fundamental to us, relating to our physiology, not just to our sense of beauty.

The history of melody has had, as it were, its ups and downs. In the classical period, a long melodic line was not considered flexible enough for symphonic development - all you could do was repeat it or make variations of it - and it was often replaced by a short motif that could be worked on. However, by the 19th Century, when the earliest piece on this CD was written (the Lalliet), melody was in its hayday. The scientist Hermann Helmholtz asserted that it was 'the incarnation of motion in music', the critic Eduard Hanslick saw in it 'the archetypal configuration of beauty', and Wagner asserted that there was no reason that a melody need ever end. In practice even Wagner ended his melodies eventually, but this was felt to be a choice and not a necessity. Surprisingly, the best example of an ‘unending’ melody on this CD comes from Wagner’s antithesis, Francis Poulenc, in the slow movement of his Trio.

In the 20th Century, melody suffered an eclipse from the followers of the Second Viennese School. This wasn't their original intention; Webern, for example, said he was looking for 'absolute melody', but this was at the expense of something you could hum, and advances in instrumental techniques, synthesisers and computers encouraged later composers to pursue ends other than melodic ones.

Meanwhile other developments, such as the incorporation of folk music, or the 'Socialist Realism' of composers such as Shostakovitch, as well as the rise of popular music as a separate genre, ensured the survival of melody. On this CD the operatic melodies of Casimir-Théophile Lalliet (circa 1870), the Romantic urges of Francis Poulenc (1928), the heartfelt melancholy of Geoffrey Bush (1952), the chirpy tunes of Richard Stoker (1963), the mediaeval references of Madeleine Dring (1971), and the sinuous lines of Barbara Thompson (2006), demonstrate that melody is alive and well.

It may also be that it is in the nature of the oboe and bassoon to play tunes, to connect to the human voice, and this has encouraged these composers to be more 'melodic' when writing for these instruments. Today's advanced instrumental techniques enable both oboe and bassoon players to make music of extraordinary complexity, but I can't help feeling that when our remote ancestors first punched finger holes in a wooden tube, it was a melody they had in mind. © 2006 Jeremy Polmear

photo of Jeremy Polmear recording Melodic Lines Jeremy Polmear was educated at the Choir School and King’s School in Canterbury, and was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain while studying with its then oboe professor Janet Craxton. After a Science degree at Cambridge University (where he also played the Strauss concerto with the University orchestra) he worked for IBM for five years.

On leaving IBM he discovered the joys of freelancing when people offered him short-term computer work, and he has never had a proper job since. He became a freelance musician, and over the years he has performed as a guest player with many of London’s chamber and ballet orchestras including the City of London Sinfonia, the London Mozart Players, Lontano, English National Ballet and The Ambache.

With the pianist Diana Ambache he formed the Polmear Ambache Duo in 1977 for a British Council tour of India. They have since performed in thirty three countries on five continents, including programmes of Words and Music in the Gulf with Billie Whitelaw, in Australia with Susannah York and around the UK with Jenny Agutter. London appearances have included recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room. They also run sessions for businesses on teamwork and leadership, using the Arts as a management training tool.

In 2002 Jeremy founded the CD label Oboe Classics, which by 2006 had sixteen titles in its catalogue. This is the third involving Jeremy himself, and his recording with Diana Ambache of music by Robert and Clara Schumann has been designated the Benchmark Recording for this repertoire by the BBC Music Magazine. He has also recorded as a soloist and chamber musician on the Meridian, Chandos, Unicorn-Kanchana and Naxos labels, and on the BBC.

Jeremy has loved jazz since University days, and plays alto saxophone in the style of Paul Desmond, though without his creativity. He is the designer of four web sites.

photo of Philip Gibbon recording Melodic Lines Philip Gibbon read History at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and received his musical education studying with the eminent bassoonist and musicologist William Waterhouse at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. A British Council scholarship took him to the Prague Academy of Music, where he studied with Jiri Seidl and František Herman and developed a taste for late Gothic art, fine lagers and smoked veal sausages.

He is the Principal Bassoonist at Garsington Opera, where, in the most idyllic and exclusive surroundings, he has performed more operas by Haydn and Richard Strauss than most people know exist. He is also Principal Bassoon with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, playing Gilbert & Sullivan and light operetta up and down the country, and with Pimlico Opera, for whom he has performed Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore to an audience of Category ‘A’ female prisoners at HMP Bronzefield.

He was, with Julian Jacobson and Pal Banda, joint Artistic Director of the Paxos International Festival from 1994 to 2004, where he prepared and performed mixed chamber music involving winds, strings and piano with players from all over Europe. Contacts at university with leading composers such as Robin Holloway, Thomas Adès and Julian Anderson led to a keen interest in contemporary music, and Philip has performed with leading ensembles at the York, Aldeburgh, Huddersfield, Brighton and ICA Festivals, and has made many chamber recordings for Radio 3.

As a freelance player, Philip has played with the London Sinfonietta, the Northern Sinfonia, the Ambache Chamber Orchestra, Endymion, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, English National Ballet and other leading ensembles. As a soloist, he has performed the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for Wind, the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante (on Gran Canaria), and Bassoon concertos by Mozart, Robin Holloway and Elizabeth Maconchy.

When not on tour, Philip lives quietly in Surrey with a research scientist from London University.

photo of Diana Ambache recording Melodic Lines Diana Ambache was short-listed for the European Women of Achievement Awards 2002 for her pioneering work reviving music by women composers of the last 250 years. With her Orchestra, she has given over 40 premières of these pieces, made several new recordings, and created a new website www.womenof note.co.uk. The Times commented that she has changed musical history, and other newspapers have written about her discoveries. She herself has written for the Independent, and the BBC Music Magazine, among others.

In more than thirty years of concert-giving, Diana has made extensive international tours, several under the auspices of the British Council, performing in over thirty countries on five continents. She has given concerts in diverse places, from London’s South Bank to Kathmandu and the edge of the Kalahari Desert.

Diana has broadcast on all the main classical music networks, and has given three series of features for BBC Radio 4's Woman’s Hour, on women composers and the women pianists that Mozart wrote for. She is also a specialist lecturer for Martin Randall Travel.

Her sixteen recordings include several of Mozart Piano Concertos and chamber music, and many by women composers. The only cover CD of music by women the BBC Music Magazine has issued was for the centenary of Clara Schumann’s death in 1996; it included the first ever recording of her Konzertsatz, plus chamber music by Fanny Mendelssohn, Louise Farrenc and Marie Grandval. The Ambache Chamber Ensemble’s two Chandos recordings of chamber music by Amy Beach were both awarded Rosettes in the Penguin Guide to CDs. Ambache CDs of music by Louise Talma and Marion Bauer have also been issued on the Naxos American Classics label.

Jeremy Polmear, Philip Gibbon and Diana Ambache while recording Melodic Lines, July 2006
Press Comment
"Another excellent package from Oboe Classics. Inspired repertoire, superb sound and exemplary programme notes. Brilliant! ...
As I finished listening to this CD I tried to work out what piece had impressed me most. This is not an easy question. Perhaps it had to be Madeleine Dring with her Trio which is so different from the received reputation of her as being a ‘children’s’ composer. Maybe it is the Stoker with its nods towards the Gallic moods of his teacher. But finally I feel it has to be the Trio by Geoffrey Bush - a well balanced and poignant work that both moves and inspires. " John France, Music Web International. For the full review, click here.

"This CD presents a fine anthology of repertoire for oboe, bassoon and piano. In fact, I cannot recall another CD devoted to this excellent format ... I thoroughly recommend this CD ... [it] is accompanied by a copious set of informative programme notes containing details of the works, the composers and the players. A personal touch I particularly like is the reporting, by Jeremy Polmear, of conversations he has had with the living composers represented here." Richard J Moore, Double Reed News, UK

Listener Comment
"I congratulate you, all three, plus the recording engineer on a very pleasing outcome. I feel quite sure that Madeleine [Dring, Roger's late wife] would be delighted with your performance of her Trio. I think your management of the different tempo changes works very well - better than any other performances, including my own efforts. You and Philip seem to have a very natural affinity throughout, a delight to hear." Roger Lord, Shaftesbury, UK

"I particularly liked the Barbara Thompson piece and the very free sort of way that you all played it. I once sat next to her in the ECO [English Chamber Orchestra] when we recorded the Lloyd Webber Requiem. She was a great spirit amongst us..." James Brown, Malmesbury, UK

"What a joy, from start to finish! All three instruments sound great. Glorious phrasing. I'm used to liking the sound of oboe and piano but I don't think I've ever heard the bassoon sound so lyrical. (I think I've been stuck in a Peter and the Wolf-style idea of the bassoon which is a bit of a send-up of its comic possibilities.)" Andrew Polmear, Brighton, UK [relation]

"We find ourselves at breakfast this morning listening (again) to this lovely CD with such pleasure. It really is a great way to start the day." Michael Maynard, London, UK

"As a bassoon student and general double-reed enthusiast, I can't tell you how much pleasure your CD has given me - it's full of beautiful gems - every note of every piece is simply a delight to listen to." Harry Thorrington, Luton, UK

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