A Tribute To Janet – chamber music with oboe and cor anglais by Mozart, Britten, Knussen and J. Françaix – Nicholas Daniel/Britten Oboe Quartet; 1 CD Harmonia Mundi

Having made himself a promise to pay tribute one day to the memory of Janet Craxton, the English oboist who died in 1981, her pupil Nicholas Daniel leads the Britten Oboe Quartet in a collection in which Mozart, Britten, Knussen and Françaix follow on one from the other. Sounds interesting? Mozart’s oboe quartet K.370 and his Adagio for cor anglais K.580a – limpidly performed – are in every oboist’s DNA. Britten’s Phantasy op.2 is a favourite work of the group that bears its name, even though they didn’t manage to make a really major event of this adolescent piece. The two other pieces were commissioned by Janet Craxton. Oliver Knussen’s Cantata op.15 demonstrates, according to Nicholas Daniel, ‘a sort of disembodied lullaby, in which the final cello entry answers the call of the dawn after a night of disturbed sleep’. It couldn’t be better put. As for the last work, the cor anglais quartet by Jean Françaix, a mixture of jubilant figures and tender melodies succeeds in throwing off balance ears accustomed to more predictable things. If summer is the season of escape, here is an escape which promises to be, in the words of our counterpart at The Guardian, ‘radical but mysterious’.

Stéphane Renard, 5 August 2017

Read this review online (in French)