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Pure Bliss

Chamber music by Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975)

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Catalogue Number: 5060192781045


Although Bliss is best known for his mid-career pastoral style (Music for Strings; Morning Heroes), his early works display exciting dalliances with modernism. When Conversations was first premiered in 1921, one critic declared it an ‘unholy row’ – which was precisely the effect Bliss desired. In the first movement, ‘The Committee Meeting’, the violin chairs a rowdy council, whose  interjections are symbolised by outbursts from the flute, oboe, viola and cello. Juliette Bausor and Daniel Bates – doubling up on flute/alto flute and oboe/cor angles, respectively – deliver a spine-tingling duet, during the bucolic ‘In the Wood’ … The Stravinsky-inspired rasping strings that appear in the fifth movement (‘In the Tube at Oxford Circus’) are also present – albeit diluted – in the Oboe Quintet. Composed almost ten years after Conversations, this work – and the later Clarinet Quintet – integrates Bliss’s experimental harmony with a traditional Romantic idiom. The evocative movement titles are replaced with standard Italian terms, and the colourful instrumentation is more polished. Bates is an accomplished soloist; there is rapport between him and his collaborators, many of whom met at the International Musicians Seminar at Cornwall’s Prussia Cover. Clarinettist Katherine Spencer brings poise and poignancy to the Quintet, a memorial piece to Bliss’s brother, who died during World War I. Extended spiky sections add weight to the occasionally ponderous melodies. (BBC Music)

Track listing
  1. Oboe Quintet – I – Assai sostenuto – Moderato – Allegro assai agitato – Molto meno mosso
  2. Oboe Quintet – II – Andante con moto – Allegro moderato – Tempo I, ma poco agitato
  3. Oboe Quintet – III – Vivace
  4. Conversations – I – The committee meeting
  5. Conversations – II – In the wood
  6. Conversations – III – In the ball room
  7. Conversations – IV – Soliloquy
  8. Conversations – V – In the tube at Oxford Circus
  9. Clarinet quintet – I – Moderato
  10. Clarinet quintet – II – Allegro molto
  11. Clarinet quintet – III – Adagietto espressivo
  12. Clarinet quintet – IV – Allegro energico