Stephen DODGSON (1924-2013)
Guitar Chamber Works
Intermezzo, (Citharae Chordae pro Pace) [3:36]
Hymnus de Sancto Stephano [4:57]
Four Poems of John Clare [10:53]
The Selevan Story [18:12]
Michael Butten (octave bass guitar)
Antonia Gentile (soprano)
Octavia Lamb (flute)
Evva Mizerska (cello)
Hartmut Richter (violin)
Eden Stell Guitar Duo
Mēla Guitar Quartet
rec. 2015/16, Holy Trinity Church, Weston, England
NAXOS 8.573762 [66:21]
I was introduced to the music of Stephen Dodgson through the wonderful series of discs that present his string quartets that appeared on Dutton. Since then I have explored a little deeper into his output and enjoyed everything that I have heard. This present disc gives examples of his chamber music that includes guitar and various instruments – he was known for composing for strange combinations of instruments as some of the works on this disc clearly demonstrate.
The first piece, Change-Ringers (1996), is for four guitars and is based upon a work for two harpsichords called Carillion that Dodgson composed over thirty years earlier. As the name suggests, it imitated the sound of church bells, and whilst I have not heard the original it is quite effective in the guitar quartet version. This is followed by Roundelay (2005), here the quartet of guitars are joined by a cello, with the more sonorous sound of the cello combining well with the bright tones of the guitars.
Divertissement (1984) is one of the highlights of the disc. It is a set of seven short pieces for violin, octave bass guitar and guitar quartet, with the sound being quite fresh and remarkable. This is followed by a short pleasant work for guitar quartet, Intermezzo, (Citharae Chordae pro Pace) (1987) with the music being prefaced with lines from Shakespeare’s King Henry the Eighth.
There then follows two works for voice and guitars. The first, Hymnus de Sancto Stephano (1983), is written in honour of Hungary’s patron saint, and was the only piece presented here that I didn’t really like. It is composed for soprano and guitar quartet, and I found it a little jarring, perhaps it is because I find Antonia Gentile’s voice a little too bright and grating against the sound of the guitars. What follows are the Four Poems of John Clare, one of my favourite poets. They are set for soprano and guitar and here Antonia Gentile is more pleasing to the ear. Here her fine soprano voice is pitted well against the single guitar.
The final work is not only the longest but also composed for the largest ensemble, flute, violin and six guitars. The Selevan Story (1992) was composed for the 10th Prussia Cove Guitar Seminar and tells the legend of the Cornish Saint Levan (b. c. 492); it is divided into five movements with each baring a subtitle from the legend. Despite the unusual instrumentation it works well and forms a fitting conclusion to this wonderful disc.
The recorded sound is good, with all the performers acquitting themselves well, my only gripe already being mentioned above, making this an entertaining and enjoyable disc. The brief but adequate notes with the inclusion of the texts and translations are an added bonus.