The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, from its base
in Glasgow, has been issuing lately a series of interesting and well-made
recordings featuring performances by its students and staff, often in
collaboration with other musicians. This one is a disc of chamber music
by the Ayr-born composer Rory Boyle.
Now in his sixties, Boyle is a composer of enormously wide experience
and achievement, winner of the BBC Scottish Composers’ Prize while
still a student, and twice recipient of Royal Philharmonic prizes. What
comes over in this disc of music written chiefly for woodwind is, firstly,
his ability to draw new sounds from instruments - for example, the special
fingerings employed in Burble
for clarinet and Intermezzo
for bassoon - without distorting their essential nature; and secondly,
his engaging wit and sense of humour.
The first six tracks feature specific instruments - a quartet of flutes,
a solo clarinet, bassoon with piano, clarinet duet, solo flute and oboe
with string quartet. In these he sets out, as it were, his credentials
as a writer with a special understanding of woodwind instruments; I
see he studied the clarinet at college.
The star attraction on this disc is the slender bur brilliant suite
entitled 'A Box of Chatter'. It is for woodwind quartet - one of each
principal woodwind instrument, plus piccolo and cor anglais - and is
in four movements. The first pays attention to the trivial as well as
the malicious nature of 'Gossip', its title. Then we have 'The Pub Bore',
personified by the cor anglais. Boyle apologises to all players of the
instrument in his notes. I'm sure there's no danger of type-casting.
The third is a remarkably economic and disciplined piece describing
'Whispering Sweet Nothings'. The final movement is a tour de force
and well worth waiting for. Entitled 'Your Call is Important to Us',
it evokes those infuriating phone calls to institutions - utilities
companies and “Help” Lines come to mind - where uncomprehending
'customer service' staff alternate with blasts of unsolicited music
- here represented by - what else - bleeding chunks of The Four Seasons
The ending vividly suggests the dialling-tone after the phone has been
slammed down in frustration - brilliant.
See also review
by Gary Higginson