Emily Pailthorpe: Better Angels | Champs Hill Records CHRCD116

Emily Pailthorpe: Better Angels


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Label: Champs Hill Records

Cat No: CHRCD116

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Release Date: 1st July 2016



This new recording by virtuoso Emily Pailthorpe brings together one of the most famous concertos for oboe – by Richard Strauss – with a new work The Better Angels of Our Nature by Richard Blackford, both recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins.

Richard Blackford is known not only for his music for theatre, film and television, but also eloquent and lyrical works for the concert hall. The Better Angels of Our Nature was commissioned by, and premiered by Emily Pailthorpe in 2012. It takes its title from an inspirational plea for reconciliation by Abraham Lincoln in his first inaugural address in 1861. It is divided into two continuous movements.

Richard Strauss’s Concerto for oboe in D major is a late work, written in 1945. Approached by John de Lancie, a corporal in the US army but in civilian life a professional oboist, Strauss originally rejected the idea of a concerto for the instrument, but the idea took seed. Sadly, through a series of complications, de Lancie never premiered the work, but it has become a mainstay of the repertoire.

Two pieces beloved of wind players form the central sections of the disc: Barber’s Summer Music for quintet, and Janáček’s Mládí for sextet, for which Pailthorpe is joined by colleagues from London Conchord Ensemble, of which she is a founder member. Commissioned in 1953, Summer Music is a single movement, showcasing each instrument of the quintet: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn.

Mládí (or ‘Youth’) by Janáček, written in 1924 when the composer was 70, adds a bass clarinet to the traditional wind quintet line-up in a piece which melds together reminiscences of Moravian folk-tunes with Janáček’s sensitivity to the lilt of human speech patterns.

With her unique vocal sound and compelling musicianship, oboist Emily Pailthorpe has won a large following amongst fellow musicians and concertgoers worldwide. Emily’s career was launched at the age of 17 when she became the youngest artist ever to win the Fernand Gillet International Oboe Competition. Playing the Vaughan Williams Concerto, she was hailed by the judges as “the Jacqueline du Pré of the oboe”. Emily went on to make her acclaimed concerto debut in 2003, playing the Strauss Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and gave her Wigmore Hall recital debut in the same year. As part of the BBC celebrations to mark International Women’s Day 2016, Emily was invited to perform Thea Musgrave’s virtuosic Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra Helios with the BBCSO, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.


Oboist Emily Pailthorpe has put together an intriguing programme from the limited repertoire available. She begins with a lusciously long-breathed account of Strauss’s late concerto, then makes lyrical work of Samuel Barber’s valedictory Canzonetta, both backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The disc takes its name from Richard Blackford’s oboe concerto The Better Angels of Our Nature, written for Pailthorpe in 2013. Fifteen minutes long, it is initially evocative of mid-20th-century Americana, then has at its fulcrum a haunting rendition of Taps, the military bugle call played at sunset or a funeral. The music that follows this is melancholy, yet ultimately consoling, and though the downbeat ending is almost anticlimactic, Pailthorpe and Brabbins make it work.  Erica Jeal
The Guardian 5 August 2016

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