JEREMY DALE ROBERTS (1934-2017): String Quintet, Capriccio for Violin and Piano, Tombeau for Piano.
Catalogue Number: 06T057
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 0487
Description: Roberts was an unusual figure in British music (known for its eccentics and mavericks in any case). As a friend of the Finzi and Vaughan Williams families and a student of William Alwyn he might have turned out as an English pastoral Romantic, and he certainly incorporated elements of this into his style when he wanted to. But he learnt the most useful lessons from Priaulx Rainier; a consuming concern for technical rigour and precision of expression, and apparently, a certain disdain for writing music that immediately ingratiates itself with the listener; also, perhaps, some degree of her athematic approach to composition may be detected, but certainly not all the time. Roberts' music is complicated, with complicated and multi-layered inspiration, though its jewelled clarity makes it much more accessible than it might otherwise be. The large Quintet, a late work, exemplifies this. It is broadly inspired by Virginia Woolf's 'To the Lighthouse'. It contains an element of music theatre in that its two sections are directed to be played either side of the interval in concert, the absence of the players and audience symbolising the middle 'act' of the book, marvellously descriptive in Woolf's prose: "The house was left ; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell on a sandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it." Part I comprises three movements; a hard-edged first, a sombre, lonely second, with unusual timbres generated by scordatura tuning, and a brisk scherzo 'Dance on the Shore', borrowing imagery from Edvard Munch and stylistic influences from Slätter. Part II is the long final movement, desolate and numb, the viola absent from the stage, symbolising the absence of the character who died at the end of part one of the book. Ultimately the viola rejoins the ensemble, but offstage, a ghost. Tombeau, a half-hour expressive and technical tour de force - some parts are blisteringly difficult - is also a work with hidden layers not suggested by the title. The strained, funereal elegy at the work's heart is the 'Tombeau', but it is bracketed by outer 'movements' consisting of a set of studies and variations respectively, of astonishing variety of character. Capriccio is an emotionally complex, technically virtuosic dramatic scena lasting a quarter of an hour. Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin), Roderick Chadwick (piano), Kreutzer Quartet w/Bridget MacRae (cello).