Concert review

Hannah Condliffe (oboe) & Dominic Doutney (piano)

16th January 2023

It was a pleasure to welcome two young artists, Hannah Condliffe (oboe) and Dominic Doutney (piano) to the latest Penrith Music Club concert, held in Penrith Methodist Church.

Hannah has already performed as a concerto soloist with the European Union Chamber Orchestra and Dominic has recently been awarded first prizes in several international piano competitions. Their well-chosen and varied programme allowed them to showcase their individual talents as well as their skills as a duo.

Credit: Harry Gill

The scene was set by a sparkling performance of the first movement of J.S.Bach’s Sonata in G minor, originally written for flute and harpsichord. The keyboard part has an important role in this and Dominic’s sensitive playing was matched by exquisite phrasing and ornamentation from the oboe. Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, written for solo oboe, followed. Britten wrote these in the early stages of his career and they have since become a standard and valued part of the oboe repertoire. The haunting, mesmeric Pan was followed by the adventurous Phaeton, the bravura and over-confident Bacchus then followed by the much gentler depiction of the river god, Arethusa. The contrasts in the character portrayals were beautifully etched by Hannah’s playing.

Three piano Etudes by Debussy followed, each combining a technical challenge with an authentic piece in its own right. Gentle exploration of Debussy’s Impressionist sound world in the opening étude was followed by the intensely-demanding repeated note challenges of the second, while the shimmering, cascading arpeggio textures of the final étude created a further striking contrast.

Credit: Harry Gill

Oboe and piano then combined in Gilles Silvestrini’s Aloe, its haunting textures gradually drawn into atight, intense central section with touches of jazz rhythms, before settling again to the mood of the opening. Inspired by a Manet painting. Silvestrini’s picture of a seaside town – Hôtel des Roches Noires à Trouville – gave Hannah Condliffe’s playing full opportunity to explore the atmosphere of sea breezes and the capriciousness of the seashore. This was followed by a further piano piece, Rachmaninov’s final prelude in D flat major, built on a chorale-like melody and rising to a grandiose conclusion.

The final two pieces of the recital, which was supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, could not have been more contrasting. Poulenc is a composer whose music rarely does the obvious and his sonata for oboe and piano is filled with moments of quirkiness and satire. The customary three movement structure of quick – slow – quick is reversed, which gives a lively and unpredictable central movement and two outer movements of serenity and occasional melancholy, offering lovely control of tone and phrasing in the oboe part and some interesting harmonic passages in the piano part. Jeffrey Agrell’s Blues for DD, described by the performers as “a crazy piece”, lived up to its name, a coruscating virtuoso piece to end a thoroughly enjoyable recital by two gifted young performers.

Colin Marston

Updated on 10th April 2024
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