Thursday 12 July 2018

75th birthday celebrations: Robin Holloway's chamber music on Sheva Contemporary

Robin Holloway - chamber music - Sheva Contemporary
Robin Holloway chamber music Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 July 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An exploration of Robin Holloway's idiomatic writing and striking ear for timbre and texture

Robin Holloway is 75 this year, this new disc from Sheva Contemporary helps the celebrations with recordings of Holloway's Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 79, Trio for oboe, violin and piano, Op. 115 and Sonata for viola Op.87 performed by members of the Rest Ensemble, Rees Webster (oboe), Oliver Pashley (clarinet), Rebecca Raimondi (violin), Henrietta Hill (viola) and Alessandro Viale (piano).

Robin Holloway studied at Oxford and Cambridge, as well as studying privately with Alexander Goehr, eventually becoming professor of composition at Cambridge where his pupils included Judith Weir, Huw Watkins, Thomas Ades, and George Benjamin.

The  works on this disc span near 20 years in Holloway's compositional life with the Trio for clarinet, viola and piano dating from 1994, the Sonata for viola from 1999 and the Trio for oboe, violin and piano from 2012.

Trio for clarinet, viola and piano is a single movement work lasting around 17 minutes, though in fact it is highly sectional in form yet plays continuously. In his programme note in the CD booklet Holloway invokes the idea of the fairy-tale, commenting that the work would be a better companion for Schumann's fairytale pieces than Mozart's Kegelstatt Trio (which is written for the same forces). It does indeed open with a very 'once upon a time' feeling with Holloway creating a very interesting combination of textures and timbres. The writing for the instruments is very sympathetic, with the piano never over dominating. Despite the varied, sectional structure of the piece, overall it has a strong sense of narrative with a feeling of the three instruments in dialogue.

The Trio for oboe, violin and piano is more recent, dating from 2012 and completes a trio of trios by Holloway which combine one wind instrument, one string instrument and piano (the Trio for horn, cello and piano has already been recorded by NMC, but it is a shame we could not get all three on the disc). This is in three distinct movements, the first Andante con moto calmo is intense and passionate, with a sense of lyrical flow. Again, Holloway relishes the contrasting timbres with vibrant textures. The Adagio espressivo is more inward, yet the dialogue does have drama and spiky moments. The Scherzino - molto allegro is perky with lots of spiky rhythms, lyrical yet full of wit. This leads to the final Largamente which is more a thoughtful dialogue.

The disc finishes with the Sonata for viola written in 1999 for unaccompanied viola, with the instrument's bottom string tuned down a semi-tone to B, which gives the music a darker, different perhaps more intense feeling and certainly affects the figurations which are used in the music. It is in four movements, slow, fast, slow, fast, with Holloway exploring the capabilities of the instrument from the whirlwind scherzo to the lyrical yet intense third movement Adagio.

The performances on this disc are all uniformly excellent, with the performers clearly enjoying Holloway's idiomatic writing and striking ear for timbre and texture. Holloway's 75th birthday does not seem to have made that much of an impression yet, so it is a pleasure to welcome this disc.

Robin Holloway (born 1943) - Trio for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 79 (1994)
Robin Holloway - Trio for oboe, violin and piano, Op. 115 (2012)
Robin Holloway - Sonata for viola, Op. 87 (1999)
Rees Webster (oboe)
Oliver Pashley (clarinet)
Rebecca Raimondi (violin)
Henrietta Hill (viola)
Alessandro Viale (piano)
Sheva Contemporary SH2018 1CD [54.02]
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Striking a chord: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home as a musical at the Young Vic  - (★★★★)  musical theatre review
  • Romantic exploration: Rheinberger and Scholz piano concertos from Simon Callaghan (★★★★)  - CD review
  • Inner demons - Mozart's Idomeneo at the Buxton Festival  (★★★½) - Opera review
  • Rip-roaring rarity: Verdi's Alzira in a rare outing at the Buxton International Festival (★★★★) - Opera review
  • Changing the discourse, soprano Madeleine Pierard & director Sophie Gilpin talk about SWAP'ra - Interview
  • Garsington premiere: David Sawer & Rory Mullarkey's The Skating Rink (★★★★) - Opera review
  • Richly imaginative: Richard Blackford 's Niobe with Tamsin Waley-Cohen (★★★★★) - Cd review
  • Sublime Illusions - Noh Reimagined, a weekend of Noh performance and workshops at Kings Place (★★★★★) - music theatre review
  • Handel & Vivaldi from Grace Davidson & the Academy of Ancient Music (★★★½) - cd review
  • The good the bad and the ugly: Susan Froemke's The Opera House (★★★½) - film review
  • Russian Romantics: music for violin & piano by Glinka, Glazunov, Cui, Rubenstein, & more (★★★) - CD review
  • Home

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