CLASSICAL MUSIC SENTINEL:
The main attraction on this recording of rare material, in my opinion, is the admirable String Quartet by John Veale (1922-2006). A composer who studied under Egon Wellesz, Roger Sessions and Roy Harris, but who decidedly avoided the avant-garde movement and stuck to the more traditional tonal style of Walton or Britten for example. The quartet sets off with an outcry on all four instruments in unison, sounding like an ancient and distant lament in search of an answer. That answer comes in the form of highly contrasting rhythmic activity in the second subject, which gives the opening movement its forward momentum. The core of the work is the wonderful Lento central movement, based on a haunting four-note motif pregnant with possibilities. John Veale's unerring sense of direction manipulates that motif in many ways but never loses sight of its melancholy and sad nature, and delivers a touching and well conceived slow movement. The final Allegro takes off in a different direction, but eventually revisits the opening movement's lament and the four-note motif and sums everything up very nicely. This is another solid string quartet that has been ignored for over 50 years.
His Triptych for Recorder and String Quartet was originally written for recorder and guitar, but eventually transcribed and first performed as a chamber work in 2003. Like myself, many of you might think that the combination of recorder and strings is not a good match, but it actually works very well. The blend adds an element of melancholy to the sound that, based on the work's overall atmosphere, can convey those emotions quite convincingly.
The music of Robert Crawford (1925-), who studied under Hans Gál and Benjamin Frankel, is a bit more angular and forward looking in its layout, which serves as a good foil to Veale's more traditional views. The three works present on this CD well exploit the chamber music idiom. This composer's focus has always been on chamber music, and as a matter of fact, he is now, at the age of 85, working on the completion of his fourth string quartet.
The Adderbury Ensemble, John Turner and Linda Merrick all come across with conviction, and perform this new music with the same dedication awarded the core repertoire. Their emotional perceptions behind the works, serve the music very well. Métier , a division of Divine Art records, has done us all a great service by dusting off and drawing our attention to these unfairly overlooked works by two neglected, though otherwise solid composers.
British-born composer John Veale (1922-2006) had an early career in film music, followed by studies with Roger Sessions and Roy Harris in the US. His style, however, remained in the Frank Bridge era, represented here by his delightful 1950 String Quartet, which is worthy of a place in the repertoire. The same likeable harmonic language continues into the Triptych , though I find the Impromptu of only passing interest.
Robert Crawford, born in Scotland three years after Veale, embraces a pleasing modern mix of tonality and atonality, and I much commend the two-movement Clarinet Quintet from 1992. Equally, he puts the recorder's sound to good use in two other well-crafted scores.
The playing of John Turner and Linda Merrick is admirable, but the beautifully prepared performances from the Adderbury Ensemble are most impressive. With a suitably wide dynamic range, the group's accounts of the Veale are warm and light-textured, contrasting with the cool colours and cleanly defined interplay that the musicians bring to the Crawford. Sound quality is good.
MUSIC AND VISION:
John Veale died in 2006 aged eighty-four having left for us a wealth of fine music that deserves greater exposure alongside the Violin Concerto , a gloriously Mahlerian work which was, until the arrival of this recorded recital , the only available evidence of his outstanding creative talent . Now the Chandos recording is complemented by this of his String Quartet , an energetic and yet lyrical , imaginative work written while he was studying with Roger Sessions in America in the early 1950s and, apart from a single performance in Oxford in 1953 , was not heard again until the present performers , the Adderbury Ensemble , publically revived it in 2008 with understandable astonishment that it had been so long neglected. It is a work in three movements , an impassioned emotional opening ending with a busy coda heralding a contemplative and strongly structured slow movement , and a vigorous finale .
The CD also includes an Impromptu for solo recorder , a short memorial to the soprano Tracy Chadwell, and a light -hearted Triptych, originally for recorder and guitar , written at the request of John Turner, and transcribed with string quartet accompaniment for performance in 2003 . Even at eighty, Veale had not lost that vital sense of humour !
Robert Crawford, who shares this recital, is now eighty-five and shows no sign of easing his schedule of creative work. In response to a request from John Turner, he completed the Elegiac Quintet in 2008 as a memorial to his father -in-law, Robin Orr. The two short outer movements enclose the 'Elegy for Robin', originally standing alone with organ accompaniment.
The elegiac mood is dispelled by the 'scherzando' finale.
There are Three Two-part Inventions for recorder and clarinet dating from 2001 , an unexpected combination that is well managed, and a more substantial and intriguing Clarinet Quintet completed late in 1992 , a work that neatly incorporates the clarinet into the string texture with success.
These two composers make fascinating and well-contrasted bedfellows. Contemporaries, neither being particularly well known, each ploughed his own furrow through changes of fashion. Each has come up with his own personal language and direction as this CD demonstrates.
The indomitable John Turner - a great promoter, commissioner and performer of contemporary British music - is the mover and shaker behind this project. As ever, the contributors are listed at the back of the useful and pleasing booklet. Turner is more than aided by the Adderbury ensemble from the village in North Oxfordshire with its superb medieval church. There the group have given many outstanding performances and at Oxford's Baroque Sheldonian Theatre. The recording is also much graced by the lyrical and silky tone and sensitive musicianship of clarinettist Linda Merrick who recently recorded the fine concerto by John McLeod on Chandos.
Robert Crawford was born in Edinburgh. When I heard the first movement of his Elegiac Quintet I immediately detected an influence of Hans Gál only to read that Crawford had studied with him. I also thought of Robin Orr only to read that Crawford not only had written what is now the middle movement of this work for a memorial service to Robin Orr in November 2006, which John Turner had commissioned, but that Crawford's second wife was Orr's daughter. I also felt during the piece a few strains of Bartók only to discover that Crawford had a special place for Bartók in his life and that he also studied with the serial composer Benjamin Frankel. These influences are all there subliminally but Crawford is his own man. His lines have an angularity about them and a tonality that is difficult to pin down. He also possesses a true originality. The Elegiac Quintet's outer movements retain a consistently sombre tone despite an opening Moderato and a finale marked Scherzo.
It is difficult to reconcile oneself to the knowledge that the Three Two-part Inventions for Recorder and Clarinet were not originally designed for those instruments, so uniquely apt they appear. In fact they were first composed for tenor, treble and descant recorders. These are contrapuntal, even canonic pieces: a Comodo, an Andante and a brief Vivace, each fascinating and none outstaying its welcome. The second and third inventions include some multiphonics - that is at least two pitches at once.
The spirit of Bach is none too far away when one writes ‘Inventions'. Bach often used the letters of his name as opening material for a new piece. Crawford, in another work for clarinet, The Quintet , uses selected letters of his own name as a starting point. They are the CAFD and E which as he says in the notes “results in an arpeggio which should be recognisable throughout the work”. Also, as a consequence there is a definite diatonic feel to this material, of which the composer comments that it “is rather less angular than I usually use”. So the work falls into two movements. The first is an Allegro moderato in which the figure is passed clearly around the five players. Crawford admits that he is a contrapuntist so “all of the instruments are treated equally”. The second movement can be thought of as; A (Lento) B (quasi allegro) A B. The main material becomes clearer as it moves through. The overall impression is one of mystery and a pensive rare beauty. These impressions live with you for some time after the last notes have evaporated.
The first time I came across John Veale was when his Violin Concerto was released by Chandos coupled with Britten's in 2001. He died all too soon in 2006 having spent much of his fruitful composing life in the theatre and film studio. He had been a pupil of two contrasting characters Egon Wellesz and Sir Thomas Armstrong. The booklet is rather misleading because the Triptych is listed inside as for recorder and guitar. The composer made a new version of the piece with string quartet instead of guitar. At less than six minutes it packs in three delightful and brief ‘moods' all based on the same little theme. There's a melancholy middle movement and the work ends in a happy little waltz.
John Turner plays Veale's brief Impromptu for solo recorder most beautifully. It was written for him in memory of that wonderful soprano Tracey Chadwell. The material comes from Veale's The Song of Radha , which he had hoped Chadwell would perform for him. It falls into four contrasting sections and is all over in less than four elegant minutes.
The major work by Veale and the work which opens the CD is his String Quartet . I found myself being reminded a little of another composer who often wrote for the cinema, William Alwyn in the Triptych. Yet it was of William Walton whose name occurred to me in the Quartet which was written in California when Veale was 28. One shouldn't be surprised at this because the composer said that he was ‘mesmerised' when he first heard Walton's First Symphony. Perhaps you can hear the influence in the scurrying Allegro molto finale with its syncopated activity and cross-rhythms or in the strong unison passages of the first movement or the yearning romantic yet unsentimental middle movement. Walton is certainly there and not Egon Wellesz to whom the work is inscribed. Composer's opinions of their own music are notoriously wobbly. According to Roy Collins' excellent booklet notes, Veale found the quartet “unsatisfactory” after its 1953 performance. Hubert Foss of OUP, on the other hand, found it to be “a considerable achievement”, an assessment with which I would wholeheartedly concur especially in this superb and understanding performance. That comment also applies to all of the works on this fascinating and enterprising disc.
John Veale (1922-2006) and Robert Crawford (b.1925) cannot be said to be well-known names in the musical household. Veale was one of those midcentury composers whose commitment to tonality found little favor among the makers and shakers of the British postwar musical experience. Though played by major performers in the 1950s, he composed almost nothing from the late 1960s until 1980, when he wrote the Violin Concerto, Lydia Mordkovich's recording of which Paul A. Snook enthusiastically reviewed in 2001, even putting it on his Want List for that year.
The String Quartet (1950) is a fine, if somewhat melancholy, piece. It will not call to mind the clear profiles of the Bartok or Britten quartets of this period, but it is well structured and confidently written, and the Adderbury Ensemble (Simon Lewis and Chris Windass, violins; Lisanne Melchoir, viola; and Jane Fenton, cello) play it with conviction.
The recorder player, John Turner, unites these two contemporaries, because the recorder pieces were all written for or first performed by him. Veale's Impromptu (2000) is a short memorial piece and exhibits no virtuosic flourishes but works out its material efficiently. The Triptych (2001/031 was originally written for recorder and guitar but later rescored for string quartet.
Robert Crawford, the Scottish one, not the American, appears in these pages for the first time, as near as I can tell. Though educated as a performing musician on the violin, he worked most of his life as the BBC music producer in Glasgow. Nonetheless, he has written a fair amount of chamber music, three string quartets with a fourth on the way, and other chamber music, including a number of pieces for John Turner. The Elegaic Quintet (2008) began with the 12-tone second movement, written for a memorial service for his father-in-law, the composer Robin Orr. The slightly Hindemithean Inventions (2001/08) are based upon the composer's name and were originally for recorder and viola, but were revised for this recording. Surprisingly, the balance between the two instruments works. The Clarinet Quintet (1992) is, in some ways, the most interesting piece on this disc, asking a great deal of the clarinet, well played by Linda Merrick.
There is an elegiac cast to all the music on this recording; it will not set bridges burning, and it probably should not be listened to straight through. The music is well crafted, well performed, and it is worth getting to know the Veale quartet and the Crawford Clarinet Quintet.
Veale knows how to write a melody and to present it cogently. The music of the three movement String Quartet is passionate. It is vibrantly played by a closely recorded quartet. There's no trace of dissonance in this music. The style is springy, tuneful and, hunted. At times it suggests early Rawsthorne especially in the finale but other voices include 1940s Malcolm Arnold, William Walton and Constant Lambert; there's a potently jazzy sway in the finale. The Impromptu for solo recorder is a capricious and sometimes piercing little soliloquy. The Triptych is in a single track running close to six minutes. The music encompasses varied moods and much of the invention is both fresh and strikingly original.
Crawford was born in Edinburgh and became a pupil of Hans Gál. His music, while not tough is more welcoming of Bartókian dissonance. Crawford's Elegiac Quintet is hauntingly and melancholic and in the Elegy redolent of Bernard Herrmann. This eldritch dream-mood carries over into the compact Three Two-Part Inventions . The Clarinet Quintet is a fantastically imaginative piece and is surely one of Crawford's masterpieces. It is wistful, tense and reflective in the yielding macabre manner of Bartók and Warlock.
The notes are an example to those contemplating similar projects.
This is a generously timed disc and the enterprise of the artists, Métier, the RVW Trust and the host of other subscribers is to be valued. I rather hope that we will next have discs of the orchestral music of Robert Crawford and of John Veale. The former's Lunula sounds very promising and BBC broadcasts some six years ago by David Porcelijn of Veale's Panorama , Metropolis and two of the three symphonies suggest that this is a project CPO should be embracing.
At last... John Veale's String Quartet is available. Had it not been for Dr David Wright we and the world would not have had this gem. The composer did not like it, and all copies were destroyed except the one that Dr Wright had. He saved it from oblivion, edited it and John Turner kindly typeset it. Dr Wright was a friend of John Veale and has written two major articles about him on this site. He has also written about Robert Crawford. It was Dr Wright who secured the brilliant violinist Lydia Mordkovitch to record Veale's gorgeous Violin Concerto on Chandos.
As I have said, Veale was not happy with this quartet. However, it was premiered in the USA when he was living there and studying with Roy Harris and Roger Sessions. It was played by the Amati Quartet in Oxford in 1953.
The quartet was written after the death of Veale's little daughter, Jane, who suffered from acute asthma. It is elegiac and is in three movements Allegro molto moderato, Lento and Allegro molto with a more relaxed section. It has the usual and endearing features of Veale's music... the sensitivity, lyricism and that infectious bustling busy-ness. When it was revived in Oxford in 2008 it was very well received. People commented on the beauty of the piece.
The sleeve notes are taken from Dr Wright's essays on John Veale and this is briefly acknowledged.
The Impromptu for solo recorder was written in memory of Tracey Chadwell a splendid singer whose life was cut short by leukaemia. She was keen to perform Veale's fascinating and challenging Song of Radha which calls for a soprano of superior technique. This little piece is magical and captures aspects of the uplifting character of Tracey Chadwell.
The Triptych for recorder and string quartet has three movements, a dance-like allegro, a melancholy Lento and a final waltz which is really a caricature. John Veale always found the waltz too predictable but revelled in Ravel's wonderful send up of this limited form in La Valse. There is also a version for recorder and guitar. Veale called this his outdoors piece. He was found of walking and even in his advanced years he could walk for miles. He loved nature and could imitate the call of some birds. He also loved some woods near his home and, although this was private property, the owners gladly allowed him to walk in them.
Robbie Crawford has comparatively few works to his name but is rightly admired for his string quartets and other fine chamber music. He is a craftsman of the highest order. The Inventions for recorder and clarinet provides a wonderfully colourful combination beautifully written and beautifully played. Listen to and admire the finale of the Elegiac Quintet for recorder and string quintet.
The Clarinet Quintet is a substantial work in two movements and another reminder of how excellent is Crawford's' chamber music. The harmonic language is fascinating and I think this work has an elegiac feel as well. However, it is a warm piece and has a mercurial flow. Splendid music.
John Turner is known as the UK's finest recorder player and his performances are excellent and reliable. I had not heard Linda Merrick before and apologise to her but her sound and intonation is first class. The Adderbury Ensemble are also very good as is the sound. An important CD.
Linda Karen Dowson, MMus
English recorderist John Turner continues to impress with his interpretations of music by living composers and his ability to present the recorder in its rightful place as a modern instrument. These two releases from UK Label Metier [referring also to MSV28519] present Turner's work with three composers of tuneful, mainstream chamber music.
The work of English composer John Veale and of Scottish composer Robert Crawford stand richly in the tradition of Ralph Vaughan Williams. On this disc of chamber works, Turner plays Crawford's Elegiac Quintet for Recorder and String Quartet , and Veale's Triptych for Recorder and String Quartet and Impromptu for Solo Recorder with grace and expressive, yet restrained, taste that fits the music well.
Of special interest is Crawford's Three Two-part Inventions for Recorder and Clarinet . Clearly alluding by title and concept to J.S.Bach's Inventions for keyboard, these pieces are playful, tuneful, enjoyable for the listeners and somewhat demanding for the performers. The music welcomes the audience into the textures and interplay. The instrumental timbres work very well together and hint at a combination deserving more exploration by composers and performers.
The composer John Veale had Oxford in his blood, and lived locally for much of his life. Beginning his education at the Dragon School, he read Modern History at Corpus Christi College. But a musical bug was biting, and he began to take composition lessons from distinguished Oxford University lecturer Egon Wellesz, and from church organist Sir Thomas Armstrong, who conducted the Oxford Orchestral Society in Veale's first performance work, Symphonic Study, in 1946.
He was considerably interested in the cinema, writing film music and serving for many years as a highly respected film critic of the Oxford Mail. Veale died in 2006, having also waged a successful, non-musical battle against intrusive flashing lights installed on the Beckley transmitter mast.
Nowadays Veale's music is little performed so a new CD (Metier msv 28520) of three of his chamber works is most welcome. His String Quartet was first performed professionally in Oxford in 1953, and then not heard again until 2008, when it was successfully revived by the Adderbury Ensemble, who play it on this CD.
Following an opening sense of foreboding, a feeling of yearning prevails through the first two movements, while the third and final movement is more optimistic. Expressive interplay between the four instruments is everywhere apparent, as is the use of differing rhythms. Judiciously placed tunes sometimes emerge, like flowers popping up in a garden. There is perhaps a nod towards Shostakovich, but the style is very much Veale's own.
Impromptu for Solo Recorder, with its impression of a skylark singing at full throttle, is an amazing demonstration of the recorder's versatility (here performed by John Turner). The third Veale work on the CD, Triptych for recorder and guitar, takes you on a high speed emotional journey, ending in a jaunty waltz.
The CD also includes three works by the Scottish composer Robert Crawford, which fit well with the Veale pieces. Expertly recorded, the Adderbury Ensemble plays with great commitment throughout.