(Click underlined movements to hear MP3 format sound clips.)
Perry Hart (violin), Brian Hawkins (viola), Kenneth Heath (cello, except Routh), Charles Tunnell (cello, Routh)
Francis Routh Oboe Quartet, Op 34 (1977)
Introduction - 12 variations - Coda
Elizabeth Maconchy Oboe Quartet (1972)
Poco lento, tempo libero - Scherzo - Poco lento, dolento - Allegro molto
Richard Stoker ‘Polemics’ for Oboe and String Trio, Op 40 (1970)
Sonata - Scherzando and Sostenuto - Finale
Nicola LeFanu Variations for Oboe Quartet (1968)
Lennox Berkeley Quartet for Oboe and String trio (1967)
Moderato - Presto & Meno vivo - Andante
Elisabeth Lutyens ‘Driving out the Death’ for Oboe and String Trio,
Op 81 (1971)
Carrying out of Winter - Pantomimos - Carrying out of Summer - Euché - Driving out the Death - Dithyrambos
Total CD time 77:35
Introduction by Jeremy Polmear:
Janet Craxton (1929-81) founded the London Oboe Quartet with Perry hart (violin), Brian Hawkins (viola) and Kenneth heath (cello) in 1968, and later with Charles Tunnell (cello) after Kenneth Heath's death in 1977. During the twelve years of its existence the Quartet played at most of the major UK music festivals and made frequent BBC broadcasts, from which these recordings are taken. Janet Craxton was always a champion of new music, and the Quartet commissioned five of the six works on this CD, as well as music by Neil Sanders, Alan Rawsthorne, Oliver Knussen, John Exton and John McCabe.
A previous Oboe Classics CD, An English Renaissance, celebrated Léon Goossens with a number of works inspired by his oboe playing. In the notes for that CD George Caird commented that in the generation following Goossens “the oboe playing of Janet Craxton should be singled out as the torch-bearer for music for oboe and strings. But that, and the composers who wrote for her, is another story.”
The music on this CD tells part of that story. copyright Jeremy Polmear 2005
Janet Craxton was born in 1929 and studied the oboe at the Royal Academy of Music with Helen Gaskell (1945-8), and at the Paris Conservatoire with Pierre Bajeux (1948-9). She was principal oboe at the Hallé orchestra (1949-52), the London Mozart Players (1952-4), the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1954-63), the London Sinfonietta (1969-81) and the Royal Opera House (1979-81). In 1958 she was appointed Oboe Professor at the Royal Academy and tutor to the National Youth Orchestra. In addition to founding the London Oboe Quartet in 1968, she was a member of the Leonardo Ensemble and the London Concertante. She died in 1981. More information about Janet Craxton can be found at www.craxtonmemorialtrust.org.uk (follow the links to the Craxton Family).
Perry Hart was born in Australia and received her early musical training at the Sydney Conservatorium. She later studied with Szymon Goldberg in Europe and the US. She came to the UK in 1960, and was a member of the London Bach Orchestra and Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as well as playing solo recitals and chamber music. She was a founder member of the Oromonte String and Piano Trios. In the 1990s she returned to Australia where she died in 2002.
Brian Hawkins studied at the Royal College of Music with Cecil Aronowitz. He has played in the Edinburgh and Martin String Quartets. He joined the English Chamber Orchestra and the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and was principal viola of the London Sinfonietta in the late 1960s and ‘70s. He also became a member of the Vesuvius Ensemble and the Nash Ensemble. He has been Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at the RCM from 1967 and was appointed Head of Strings in 1992; he is now an FRCM.
Kenneth Heath studied the cello at the Royal Manchester College of Music and subsequently with Pierre Fournier in France. He was then appointed solo cellist at the Royal Opera House, and in the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1963 he became principal cellist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, leaving in 1965 to perform more solo and chamber music, as well as being principal cellist with the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He died in 1977.
Charles Tunnell studied at the Royal College of Music with Harvey Phillips, and in Paris with Andre Navarra. In 1960, while still a student, he played in the English Chamber Orchestra's inaugural concert at the Royal Festival Hall. This was the beginning of a connection that was to last over forty years, the last twenty five of which he was principal cellist. He also played for many years in the Tunnell Piano Trio, the Vesuvius Ensemble and the English Baroque Ensemble. He now spends much of his time teaching in Spain.
"Craxton's playing is simply superb... The tone is remarkably rich and varied, the precision - especially in complex rhythms - not merely admirable but physically thrilling. But it's her expression that impressed me most of all. Far from having one expressive style which she applies to more or less everything, Craxton approaches each piece on its own terms: coaxing out poetry here, scooping deep into the notes and drawing up gold the next. This clearly affected the other players: the sense of absorption, whether in the spiny lyricism of Elisabeth Lutyens' Driving out the Death or in the surprisingly desolate finale of the [Lennox] Berkeley [Quartet], lingers long after the disc is over. Recommended." Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine
"The booklet notes are extensive, running to 24 pages. They include many reminiscences of Craxton, while not shying away from occasional technical detail. It is marvellous that this material has at last seen the light of day, and the disc is urgently recommended."
Carl Rosman, International Record Review
"This is a thornier blend of oboe pieces than is usual from Oboe Classics but it's well worth the effort." Rob Barnett, Classical Music Web
"These issues include especially rewarding Quartets by Elizabeth Maconchy, Lennox Berkeley, and Elisabeth Lutyens' truly remarkable 'Driving out the Death'" Michael Kennedy, Sunday Telegraph
"In all these wonderful quartets, I admire the range of musical expression, intense musicality, tone colours, control (particularly Janet's control of diminuendos), intonation over huge intervals as well as fluent finger technique and immaculate tonguing. In her teaching Janet always emphasised the importance of being faithful to the composer, and in these performances all the players make this a priority. The quartets become so alive with the interplay between the oboe and the string players, and the ensemble throughout is impeccable." Valerie Taylor, Double Reed News (UK)
"The quality of Craxton's wonderfully distinctive playing shines through." Andrew Clements, Guardian
"I am obsessed with this CD and can't get enough of it. Her playing is so fascinating and poetic. I am so grateful to you for your time and money that you invested in this project. The music chosen is Perfect! I am so glad that the works represented are works that are little known yet highly interesting and unique. When your pocket book is a little bigger, please consider Janet Craxton CD II. :)" BH, Woodinville WA, USA