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 High Barbaree  Venus to the Muse  Daphne to Apollo  Duo Concertante  Shine and Shade  Quatre Rondeaux de Charles d’Orléans: (i) Le Temps a laissié son manteau (ii) Quant j’ai le tabourin (iii) En regardant ces belles fleurs (iv) Allez vous en, allez, allez
Inventions for Harpsichord (Set 3):  Vivace Assai  Allegramente  Largamente e Liberamente  Spiritoso
Warbeck Trio:  Processional (the Uneasy Crowd)  the Early of Huntly  Edinburgh Revels  Whitsand Bay to Tyburn
Performed by Lesley-Jane Rogers (soprano), John Turner (recorder), Graham Salvage (bassoon), Craig Ogden (guitar) and Pamela Nash (harpsichord).
Being unfamiliar with Stephen Dodgson’s music and not by nature drawn to the miniature as an art form (with the exception of vocal music,) I faced this review with mild trepidation. By the time I had finished listening though, I had ceased to worry. There’s much to enjoy here and the composer’s skill is obvious. His music has its own sound-world for which my appreciation grew with repeated hearing.
The disc is a commemoration for Mr. Dodgson’s 80th birthday this year, and comes with his own detailed notes on the pieces presented. Mr Dodgson trained at the Royal College of Music in London and remained there for many years as a teacher of music theory and composition. Subsequently, he worked as a part-time teacher in many different schools and colleges and although he is retired now, he is still actively engaged in composing. Although writing in many different genres, including incidental music for the BBC, Mr. Dodgson has made something of a speciality out of writing for guitar, harpsichord and recorders. The disc is representative of his output for these instruments, in various combinations, put together with a soprano voice on the tracks Daphne to Apollo, Venus to the Muses and Quatre Rondeaux de Charles d’Orléans.
I found the Inventions for Harpsichord and the Warbeck Trio the most immediately appealing pieces. The Inventions (Set 3, 1970) are part of a total of five sets written between 1955 and 1993 and each set contains six pieces which may be performed either complete or as excerpts (from all thirty) selected to suit a particular performer’s programme. Each of the Set 3 pieces presented on the disc, illustrates something special about the harpsichord or about compositional style: vivace assai for instance, is essentially a two-part piece without a home key until the end, and ‘is always on the move with chords only for dynamism and emphasis’ while allegramente is written without bar-lines. Largamente is designed as a contrast and emphasises the harpsichord’s cantabile qualities and spiritoso is a study in articulation and rhythm full of ‘repetitions with leaps.’ Altogether this is a most enjoyable selection.
The Warbeck Trio for recorder, bassoon and harpsichord developed from some incidental music that Mr. Dodgson wrote for a BBC play in 1970, John Ford’s ‘Perkin Warbeck’ (1634.) While clearly developed from illustrative music but the piece is full of life and also eloquent drama which reveals itself as the themes of each movement are explored. The music is given great sonority by the combined instruments.
Recorder aficionados will undoubtedly be impressed by John Turner’s playing in both Shine and Shade, a set of variations for recorder and harpsichord and on the title track High Barbaree, the Capriccio in pursuit of an old Sea-Song for recorders, guitar and harpsichord. Shine and Shade was written for Richard Harvey in 1975 and designed to show both the virtuosity and the expressiveness of the instrument. High Barbaree, a short piece suggested by John Turner on which he plays both tenor and descant instruments to celebrate Mr. Dodgson’s seventy-fifth birthday, is surely a model of recorder technique for all players.
The Duo Concertante for guitar and harpsichord was written for John Williams and Rafael Puyana. Although Mr Dodgsons notes say that he had initial doubts about combining two plucked instruments, he was persuaded otherwise by the artists. It is certainly an unusual combination but the composer’s undoubted skill reveals its potential fully.
Although Lesley-Jane Rogers’ singing is ably suited to the music, I found the songs Venus to the Muses, Daphne to Apollo and Quatre Rondeaux de Charles d’Orléans the least engaging of the pieces on the disc. This is clearly a matter of personal taste however, and others may well think differently.
Overall then, this is a fine introduction to Stephen Dodgson’s work which can be recommended, especially to those interested in recorders, guitar and harpsichord. It is well recorded and contains much music of real interest.