The Lancashire-based composer David Dubery has informed me that Divine Art Records is releasing a new CD of his music in July 2014 (Metier MSV 28548). It will feature 17 songs for voice and piano as well as the ‘Ibérico’ String Quartet.
The songs include four ‘cycles’ or collections and a single setting, of Shakespeare’s well-known ‘Full Fathom Five’ (1964) from The Tempest. The album’s title is reflected in a cycle of six poems by Walter de la Mare (1979, later revised) and includes the well-loved poem ‘The Window’ – ‘Behind the blinds I sit and watch/The people passing - passing by/And not a single one can see/ My tiny watching eye.’ It is good to note that Dubery has set some of de la Mare’s verse that has not (to my knowledge) been done before, such as ‘Esmeralda’ and ‘The Promenade’.
Two of the song collections, Three Songs and Night Songs feature an obligato part for flute which is played by Michael Cox. There are a number of settings by the poet Douglas Gibson, including the cycle Time will not Wait (1981-2). I have never heard of Gibson or his work; he was born in 1912 and wrote many of his poems whilst working at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford during the Second World War. He was a conscientious objector and had been allocated this task by the court. After the war he lived in Leigh-on-Sea until his death in 1984. Glancing at some of his poems reveals some beautifully written lines.
The string quartet is a major work by any standards. Cuarteto Ibérico: (Los fantasmas de los tiempos pasados): Ghosts of Times Past, was composed in 2005 and reworked in 2013. The quartet is in four movements, each having a subtitle. Dubery writes that his interest in Spanish music began in his childhood when taken to see Antonio & His Dancers at the Alhambra Theatre in Durban, South Africa. Later in life, the composer visited the places of his early dreams - Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Granada. The quartet paints pictures of ‘The Dancer in the Square’, ‘In the Maria Luisa Park, Seville’, ‘The Beggar man in the Gothic Quarter’ and Carnival. However, these ‘pictures’ are simply suggestions for the listener to use their own imagination. Dubery has written, ‘the musical language is intentionally accessible, tonal and impressionistic, unashamedly filled with influences from Spanish and South American composers whose music I love and often performed: de Falla, Granados, Albeniz, Rodrigo and Piazzolla.’ Based on the short extracts I have heard, this work is lining up to be a masterpiece.
The title of the album, Observations is appropriate, relating to not just the eponymous song-cycle but the other works on the disc- especially the string quartet.
The Divine Art record label blurb describes the composer, as one of the ‘leading exponents of the new lyrical post-modern music in Britain’. Certainly all the works by David Dubery that I have heard are approachable, subtle, not in any way patronising, and are always well-constructed and musically satisfying. There is a review of his recent CD (METIER MSV28523) of songs and chamber music on MusicWeb International.
The soloists on Dubery’s new CD will include the Cavaleri String Quartet, with the songs performed by James Gilchrist and Adrienne Murray. The composer plays the piano. A brief taster of this new CD can be heard on YouTube. A sample of one of the songs can be heard on the Divine Art webpage. (Click on ‘preview ‘Winter Journey’)