21st Century Oboe
Christopher Redgate & the Howarth-Redgate Oboe
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Now Available: My first CD recording on the new oboe!

New Music for a New Oboe (vol. 1)      


The works: Premiere recordings of: 

 Edwin Roxburgh The Well Tempered Oboe 

Michael Finnissy Âwâz-e Niyâz

Reviews of New Music for a New Oboe:

Daily Classical Music.com

Christopher Redgate has spent the last three years working on the redesign of the oboe's key structure, with the result that a new instrument has been born, built in collaboration with the British oboe makers Howarth of London. The new instrument is the Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe, and this CD,

the first volume of a planned series, introduces the instrument with music specially created by composers who have a particularly close association with Redgate and with exploratory music. As is immediately evident from that Aeolian Prelude, the first track of Edwin Roxburgh's The Well Tempered Oboe, this new instrument meets the demands not only of adventurous players, but also, as has been proven with long historical precedence, by the imaginative demands of composers. Technical developments in the nineteenth century transformed the instrument considerably to produce the modern oboe with which we have become familiar. This new Howarth-Redgate oboe not only expands the upper range of the instrument, but also introduces a new series of keys that facilitate the production of multiphonics and microtones,as well as further easing the production of features like flutter-tonguing and glissandi. The four movements of Roxburgh's piece are no simple showcase of gymnastics, but a carefully crafted work of sensitivity and consummate skill that are a just reward, not only for Redgate's three-year Research Fellowship at the Royal Academy of Music, but of his thirty years of exploration, collaboration with many composers and other notable performers (like Roxburgh himself), and a range of work as an eminent performer of music of all styles and periods. The composer Michael Finnissy shares this CD with a monumental work - almost an hour's duration -- called Âwâz-e Niyâz, which, in the language of Persia means Songs from Mysterious Necessity (or Prayerfulness), which draws much from the traditional music of the region and from the style of its presentation. Perhaps most remarkably, this enormous work is a series of sections that alternate between Redgate's new oboe, and a newly designed bass oboe called a Lupophon, with a range from low F at the bottom of the bass stave to a high B above the treble -- a wider range than either the usual bass oboe or the heckelphone, long a challenge to conductors of Elektra or Delius' Requiem. Finnissy is not only skilful in these seamless alternations, but so superbly inventive that the hour passes without undue stress. The third section returns to the Lupophon, illustrating its extended range and often menacing character, the changes from one instrument to the other neatly bridged with Finnissy's own expert keyboard playing, an equal partnership rather than accompaniment, which serves to change each dramatic scene. Exotic melisma explore the subtleties of its bending tones, while later there is a journey into this 'improved' oboe's highest regions. The research behind this remarkable CD is well rewarded by music that is as fascinating and challenging as it is revelatory.

Patric Standford


Michael Finnissy's programme notes have a tendency to make the ache of writing music sound like a walk in the park. He tells us that Áwâz-e Niyâz, premiered in 2012, was inspired by the traditions of Persia; that his title translates as 'Songs from Mysterious Necessity'; that the practice of Persian improvised song mirrors his own compositional methodology of intuitively shunting archetypal melodic fragments around the staves. 'These fragments are then rendered specific in pitch and rhythm,' he says 'the outcome of which provides ongoing impetus and narrative.' None of which really tells us how he came to write this 55-minute odyssey for oboe (doubling lupophon) and piano. It has a ritualistic, meditative quality which reminds you that Finnissy mentions that 'niyâz' can also translate as 'prayerfulness', and that he is keen to stress his structure as 'impulsive'. During the opening minutes, with the oboe moving across melodic patterns like a Spirograph, lines jaywalking back through themselves, reels rather than clean-cut 'Western' phrasing, it's as if Finnissy is sending a postcard from a souk. And then suddenly you fall deep into his fantasy; melodic utterances push against structural constraints to yank open the space, you lose your place and realise how liberating that is, syntactical alignment between piano and oboe falls apart and intrigue mounts as you wonder just how Finnissy can reintroduce the oboe after a piano cadenza that feels entirely self-contained. Anyone fearing that 'New Music for a New Oboe' sounds uncomfortably like an instrument vendor's demo CD must think again. Christopher Redgate explains how he re-crafted the conventional oboe to fit with the demands of contemporary composition - and how he developed the lupophon, a bass oboe - but frankly, who'd care unless composers were interested in using it? True enough, Finnissy's piano-playing isn't captured with ideal clarity but the piece itself is a reminder of his mastery of scale. Details are telescoped in upon: room to breathe is what's required.  Áwâz-e Niyâz is a short piece that happens to run over 55 minutes. Edwin Roxburgh's soberer The Well Tempered Oboe gives Redgate plenty of technical substance to chew on; but the Finnissy obliges him to play beyond himself.

Philip Clark

CDs are available from me or from Divine Art Metier as well as all usual sources.