CD of the Month: Phoenix

Phoenix | Nicola Hands (Oboe) and Jonathan Pease (Piano)

Supplier Code: EMR CD066

Following on from their debut album Light and Shade is Nicola Hands’ and Jonathan Pease’s second C.D., Phoenix. Phoenix features a collection of music by English composers for oboe/cor anglais and piano, aiming to highlight lesser-known works.

The album begins with Bennett’s Four Country Dances, the exposed opening on solo oboe introducing the listener to Hands’ strong, bold tone. The later lilting oboe melody is expressively performed by Hands and sympathetically supported by Pease’s piano line. A sense of nostalgia is successfully evoked in this piece, and it is immediately apparent that an impressive level of musical communication exists between Hands and Pease.

Like Four Country Dances, Alwyn’s Sonata for Oboe and Piano is pastoral in feel, but there are also definite sophisticated-sounding French elements. The playful and spritely first movement contains frequent tempo and mood changes which are effectively led by Hands whilst Pease provides a rhythmically reliable backing for the oboe to layer on top of. The beginning of the second movement features an extended piano solo which creates a reflective moment of calm.

Snake, Berkeley’s solo piece for cor anglais, provides an atmospheric contrast to the album’s previous pieces. Inspired by the poem of the same name by D. H. Lawrence, Snake contains a wide range of dynamics which are well-conveyed by Hands. She approaches each phrase with confidence and the full pitch range of the cor anglais is beautifully displayed.

Hands and Pease manage the synchronised sections of Dove’s Lament for a Lovelorn Lenanshee very well, increasing dynamic intensity to great effect. The composer describes this performance as ‘enticing’, saying ‘the atmosphere and character and tempo are all terrific, earthy and rapturous by turns, and always engaging.’

One of the highlights of this album is Pease’s own composition, Westbourne Nocturne, a welcome addition to the cor anglais repertoire. The unison cor anglais and piano phrases are perfectly coordinated between Hands and Pease, suggesting the work was composed with their partnership in mind.

Patterson’s Phoenix Sonata is a compressed version of his Phoenix Concerto, which was commissioned for Howarth Artist Emily Pailthorpe. This rhythmically challenging piece is well-navigated by Hands and Pease, who ensure momentum is maintained throughout. Phoenix is rounded off with Delius’ Harmonic Variations, a pair of short pieces featuring the cor anglais and oboe respectively.

Phoenix showcases Nicola Hands’ and Jonathan Pease’s playing excellently, and particularly celebrates their compatibility as a musical duo. Its varied programme promotes some interesting and rarely heard pieces of oboe repertoire, resulting in an enjoyable and informative listen. Phoenix is available to purchase in our London Showrooms and on our website here.

The full track listing is as follows (total run-time 1 hour 17 minutes):

  • Bennett, Sir Richard Rodney: Four Country Dances (2000)
  • Alwyn, William: Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1934)
  • Berkeley, Michael: Snake (1994)
  • Dove, Jonathan: Lament for a Lovelorn Lenanshee (1993)
  • Pease, Jonathan: Westbourne Nocturne (2019)
  • Patterson, Paul: Phoenix Sonata (2010)
  • Delius, Frederick: Harmonic Variations (1998)

Bethany Craft, Oboe Specialist – Howarth of London

About Howarth of London

Woodwind Specialists - Howarth are leading suppliers of oboes, bassoons, clarinets, saxophones and flutes. Makers of fine oboes, cors anglais & oboes d'amore.
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