To other composers of his time, Stephen Dodgson was the consummate craftsman, yet, for some inexplicable reason, his music seldom fired public approbation. This new release, recorded in 2014, the year following his death at the age of eighty-nine, offers a retrospect of his chamber music, four of the works receiving their ‘World Premiere Recording’.
Born in London, his early career was largely in teaching, much of his compositions being commissioned as background music for documentary films. Those who wished to propagate his ‘classical’ music did obtain broadcast performances, but the recording industry were less charitable. That could arise from the fact that he did not become a composer of fashionable ‘English’ music, but created his own very individual style. It was founded upon tonal melodic invention, the first String Trio from 1951 asking the listener to acquaint themselves with his personal idiom in order to lodge it into their memory-bank. Maybe Naxos should have opened the disc with the Second Trio that immediately grabs your attention with its innovative textures, the whole work worthy of a place among the finest English chamber music scores, the soulful second movement a masterpiece, a return to its mood at the close of the work leaving one deeply concerned at the way the world is heading.
It is a pity that one of the ‘big names’ has not taken up the Partita for Solo Cello, its eight movements oscillating between fast and slow, offering plenty for virtuosos. Like many cellists, Graham Walker, does at time audibly slap the fingerboard, but here and throughout the disc, the members of Karolos are highly persuasive Dodgson advocates, Sarah-Jane Bradley’s viola in Caprice after Puck—a score taking its title from a character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—makes for a gorgeous track.
Superb sound quality.
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