Christopher Redgate Contemporary Oboe Music Specialist
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Below are a number of press reviews - including some of my CD reviews...
 
Concert Reviews:
 

Oboist Christopher Redgate’s performances were their usual inspired combination of technical precision and inventiveness. Seemingly effortless circular breathing featured on his 5-minute improvisation …the sting of the bee...’, and his interpretations of Andriessen’s frenetic A Flower Song 2, Denissow’s subtle multiphonics in Solo for Oboe and Carter’s lyrical cor anglais writing in A Six Letter Letter were a real pleasure.

Jerry Wigens

“Penderecki’s Capriccio was given with considerable panache and charmed the listener”

Financial Times

 ‘Beautiful Performance’
The Times

‘A display of astonishing technical mastery… the lyrical episodes had a quality of special beauty’
Daily Telegraph

‘Christopher Redgate was Magnificent’
Daily Telegraph

‘Redgate gave a powerful display of solo virtuosity in Takashi’s Operation Euler’ 
Financial Times 

“Britten’s Ovid Metamorphosis were played with a sweet whimsical beauty by Christopher Redgate.” Times

 ‘Christopher Redgate’s performance must have staggered any woodwind player in the audience. His performance of this impossibly difficult work sounded marvellously effortless.’
 Christopher Redgate seems to have lips of vulcanised rubber and lungs of cast iron.”

The Citizen.. Ottawa

“Although it is fiendishly difficult it appeared to cause no problem to the oboist Christopher Redgate.” Glasgow Herald

 “Coloratura… had the benediction of a beautiful performance by Christopher Redgate” The Times

“Christopher Redgate and John Harrod were magnificent” The Times
 
CD Reviews:
 
 

Oboe+: Berio & Beyond

These days many new discs seem cobbled together in a moment, thoughtless effluvia of our age’s manic obsession with material production. Some, however, remain a true labour of love, from the selection and performance of the music to the minute care taken over documentation and presentation. One such is the new collection from British oboist Christopher Redgate, Oboe +: Berio and Beyond, the result of a quarter-century’s dedicated research and graft: one man’s love affair with the contemporary oboe. Redgate is one of a tiny band of oboists across the world who have made a life’s work of taking the instrument into the farthest reaches of technical virtuosity and physical capability, and in doing so inspired a generation of composers to create a virtuoso repertoire characterised by blazing compositional audacity and extremity. Oboe + brings together four such pieces, by Finnissy, Hayden, Michael Young and Redgate’s brother Roger, framed by an improvisation from Redgate himself and Berio’s evergreen Sequenza VII. The result is a testament both to Redgate’s inimitable virtuosity and to his excellent taste, a truly meaty recital that rewards the listener increasingly on repeated hearings.

Redgate’s emergence in Britain in the early 80s, a period in which febrile complexity of surface was the pre-eminent radical lingua franca, seems at once happily fortuitous and yet perhaps no accident: certainly, it seems reasonable to acknowledge the symbiotic nature of the composer-performer relationship in the creation of such works as Michael Finnissy’s Pavasiya (1981) and Roger Redgate’s Ausgangspunkte (‘Points of Departure’, 1982), the latter described by Christopher as ‘the most difficult work in the repertoire’. Both now seem like classics. Finnissy’s work is based on an Indian creation myth in which the gods breathe life into man, and is raw, wild and primal as only Finnissy’s wind music can be, a profoundly vocal music which is yet pre-civilised, absolutely sensuous, untamed by speech or syntax. Redgate’s pacing and control – especially of the long, high sustained lines and haunting multiphonic trills towards the middle and end of the piece – are masterly. His brother Roger’s Ausgangspunkte shows him off technically to even greater effect, a ferocious (though lucid) motivic discourse laced with enormous leaps across the whole range, unfeasibly high notes and the whole gamut of extended techniques. Roger describes his ‘central concern’ in the piece as the combination and development of six motivic ‘archetypes’ heard at the outset, and in spite of its heated surface there is an underlying classical coolness to the writing, a sense of calculating and balancing quite typical of his work. That Christopher is able to play it at all seems astonishing enough, but to project the music’s overall intellectual poise through the storm of notes is a quite staggering achievement.

Sam Hayden’s Recoil is a fine, tough piece for oboe and percussion, the latter mainly drums playing polyrhythms mixed with sharp gestural discharges, from which the oboe is said by the composer to recoil. In fact the interplay between the two players seems less close than the description might suggest, the oboe line alternating long ff multiphonics with writhing melodic spasms and pursuing an unwavering course alongside the drums. Very little change of texture is afforded over the ten-minute piece, which has a satisfyingly rigid, ritual quality – a suitable memorial for Hayden’s hero Xenakis. Michael Young’s Argrophylax for oboe and live interactive electronics, the centrepiece of the programme and a hefty 20-minute score, is the only slight disappointment, both the heady parade of extended oboe techniques and the computer-generated real-time ‘responses’ to the oboe’s line being deployed without much discrimination or overall characterisation. More focused by far is Redgate’s improvisation …sting of the bee…, loosely based on the 19th-century oboe virtuoso Pasculli’s Le Api, which provides a panorama of trills in a continuous stream of bewildering speed and variety comparable with the free jazz of Evan Parker. Not for nothing either, I imagine, is its home-note a B natural, an affectionate tribute perhaps to Berio’s Sequenza VII, which Redgate plays with a crisp, acrobatic elegance to end the disc.

James Weeks – Tempo Magazine

What better choice than Christopher Redgate to present a selection of contemporary British works for (mostly) solo oboe together with a classic of twentieth century repertoire (possibly the classic)  - Berio’s Sequenza VII (1969) - for the relatively recent label ‘Oboe Classics’. Each work receives performances which are both technical feats of virtuosity as well as the products of a virtuosic imagination. Interestingly, listening to Sequenza VII after the other works, which push the oboe beyond the extremities of register and technique, reveals new perspectives on the work – never have I experienced such a tender reading of the work, particularly during the final section in which the multiphonics stand so elegantly poised.                                                    

Redgate’s programme note claims that Ausgangspunkte, by the performer’s brother, Roger Redgate, is ‘the most difficult work in the repertoire’, a claim which to this listener certainly seems justified. The work leaps across and beyond the register in both rapid and slow passages, instilling a response in the listener which is both agitated and compelling. Despite its no doubt rigorous compositional structures, the kaleidoscopic and menagerie-like hysteria makes for an intensely physical experience and it is amongst Redgate’s finest works.

Argophylax for oboe and interactive computer, by Michael Young, adds to the growing repertoire of works for solo instrument and Max/MSP. Young here creates a vast range of textures, feeding on mostly extended techniques produced by Redgate, to create contrasting blocks of sound within an immediate and direct sense of structure. My concern with the piece is that the energies and virtuosity of the performer, so in evident throughout this disc, can at times be drained of their spark by the density of the electronic sounds.

Michael Finnissy writes so well for wind and Pavasiya is a powerful, yearning work for oboe and oboe d’amore. Despite the flurries which occur sporadically, the impression is one of sustained lyricism – no quasi-romantic gestures here, though, but an earthy, primeval force, free of cultivated clutter. Similarly, Sam Hayden’s Recoil sounds like a Neolithic perspective on the music of Birtwistle or Xenakis. Its extremity is found not so much in a catalogue of extended techniques but in its very loud and stoically harsh sound world. Uncompromising and strangely mesmerising.

The disc opens with a solo improvisation featuring a whirlwind of trills of all kinds, including extraordinary multiphonic trilling, which bears comparison to the solo improvisations of saxophonist Evan Parker.

SPNM online review of Oboe +: Berio and beyond by Philip Thomas

This extraordinary disc from the oboe fanatic's label is a showcase for multiphonics, triple tonguing, flutter tonguing and circular breathing.  But while the sounds and their production are compelling, this is intensely meaningful virtuosity.  Extended techniques on the instrument were inspired by Luciano Berio's "Sequenza VII", a classic of the modern repertoire, and Redgate's interpretation is taut, incisive and commanding.  His brother, Roger Redgate, wrote the piercing, screaming "Ausgangspunkte" for him, which goes beyond even Berio with its amazing trills between multiphonics.  Michael Young's "Argrophylax" for oboe with interactive computer, and Sam Hayden's "Recoil" for oboe and percussion, are eventful if not totally convincing.  In Michael Finnissy's more reflective "Pavasiya", Redgate is called on to switch between oboe and oboe d'amore, unsettling silences being built into the structure of the piece.  Although primarily an interpreter, Redgate improvises on "Le Api" ("The Bees") by 19th century oboist Antonino Pasculli, blasting through a compendium of extended techniques like a free jazz wildman.  A student commented that what he played "didn't sound like an oboe", when they should have said "I didn't know an oboe could sound like that".  Forget the instrument's bucolic image, this is a great recording of new music.

Wire Review – May 2007. Andy Hamilton

Christopher Redgate is a tireless champion of music that embraces extended oboe techniques (quarter-tones, double- and multi-phonics, double trills, triple and flutter tonguing and glissandi are just a few of the many resources heard here) and in his latest CD he ventures further by also including his own "composition" in the style of an improvisation. The oboe sound is deconstructed and taken into a world of extreme technical daring, so much so that it metamorphoses into another type, and the personality that one used to recognise, vanishes.

The composers on this recording tackle this sound world with energy and conviction and of course Berio's Sequenza VII is a classic of the genre. In this company it shines out as a masterpiece in expressivity that not only thrills but is also tender and gentle.

Not so the other pieces which by their very nature condemn the oboe to a world of brutal beauty. Michael Finnissy's music is by turns seamless, slow and ritualistic, and then insistently forceful. Roger Redgate and Sam Hayden both create a stark, manic and violent landscape where the dynamic of fortissimo in continually energised into new territories. Michael Young's piece with interactive computer explores a deeper colourful world of expression where he can manipulate a wider variety of shades of foreground and background.

The microphones in this recording are physically very close to the oboe, exacerbating attempts at any softer dimensions in the sound, but throughout Christopher Redgate gives everything, not only in terms of his commitment, but also in his undying energy.

Melinda Maxwell – Review in the British Double Reed Journal

Hardcore modernism, played with considerable virtuosity ... Julie Williams

This is hardcore modernism, played with considerable virtuosity by Christopher Redgate and his accompanists. The Berio is a useful reference point for the listener, and in some ways it would have been helpful if this had opened the disc. However, it also makes quite good sense to end by anchoring the newer compositions to their influences in this way. The soloist himself describes as the music as "extreme oboe music" and his helpful and extensive accompanying notes introduce "the new sounds". Further information is also available on the label's website, together with samples from the CD (in mp3 format). One of the techniques showcased particularly in the first track -- Christopher Redgate is alone improvised composition -- is circular breathing as used also by jazz musicians such as the saxophonist Evan Parker.
 
The second work, Ausgangpunkte (Points of Departure) was written specially for Christopher Redgate - who plays it here - and he describes it as the most difficult work in the repertoire. Unlike some of the other pieces on this disc it has no improvised sections but considerable parts of it require playing outside the official range of the instrument. This creates intensity and a sense of tension even in the slower tempo sections.
 
The third track, by Michael Young - who also produces and edits the recording - involves interactive computer accompaniment with which the live soloist has a constant dialogue. The oboe part is a mixture of written score and improvised freedom.
 
This is followed by a piece by the better known British composer Michael Finnissy, a Professor of Music at Southampton University, who has written considerably for the oboe. It involves both oboe and oboe d'amore, alternating with one another six times during the piece. It takes inspiration from Hopi Indian mythology and its idea of breath - the link to wind instruments - being fundamental to creation. Multiphonics are introduced only at the very end of the piece; in this respect differing from most of the other works on the disc.
 
The next work, Recoil by Sam Hayden, is by contrast made up largely of multiphonics, some distorted by flutter-tonguing. It is almost exclusively fortissimo and has a hard-edged sound. It is written at least partly as a tribute to Iannis Xenakis in the year of his death, and takes inspiration from some of that composer’s percussion writing.
 
The disc closes with Berio's Sequenza VII, which has become a seminal modern work for oboists. Those with an interest in this type of music may well already own at least one recording of it. It has been interesting to compare this performance with that by Laszlo Hadady of Ensemble Intercontemporain which forms part of Deutsche Grammophon's complete set (457 038-2) of the Sequenzas; this has a fresher and more immediate feel - in fact the sound of keys moving is audible!
 
Julie Williams -
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Oct07/Oboe_berio_cc2015.htm

Pasculli: The Paganini of the oboe

On the cover of this disc, the Sicilian Antonino Pasculli is described as the Paganini of the Oboe; and indeed his music, like that of the legendary violinist, pushes virtuosity on his instrument to spectacular new heights.  However, Pasculli was hardly a comparable creative artist, and most of his compositions are in the favourite Italian mode of fantasias, incorporating sets of increasingly brilliant variations, on popular operatic themes - here by Verdi, Mayerbeer and Donizetti.  They are neatly put together, though, with plenty of opportunities for lyrical expression as well as agile register crossing and lightning fast fingering.

Christopher Redgate, previously better known for the different kind of virtuosity required for the avant-garde, negotiate all Pasculli's bravura writing with stunning aplomb, and his use of circular breathing in the study ‘The Bees’ leaves the listener gasping in more ways than one.  He could to advantage have treated the original operatic melodies with more pointed phrasing and greater range of dynamics - though the latter deficiency might be due to the boxy recording, which also does not flatter Stephen Robbing’s assured piano playing.  But this is a disc to open the ears of all oboistsis, and to entertain and astonish less specialist music lovers.

Anthony Burton - BBC music magazine review -- September 2003

Question: who invented circular breathing? Now, my eldest son, who plays the didgeridoo, tells me that it must have been the ancient aborigines as the only way to keep the long pedal notes going in their music is through this method. Well, Christopher Redgate, the star oboeist on this disc, in his excellent programme notes to this CD, wonders if it was Antonino Pasculli. Perhaps he was the first to expect oboists to play a continuous stretch of semiquavers without a break for four minutes on end. He was certainly only one of a number of oboe virtuosi during the 19th Century (look up Casimir Lalliet 1837-92 or Stanislas Verroust 1814-63) although he was probably the most extraordinary,

Curiously, his career was short-lived due to failing eye-sight in early middle age. He appears not to have had any music written for him. It seems that the pieces recorded here were for himself to play and therefore mostly date from the 1870s and 1880s. They consist of Fantasias and three movement concertos using themes from some of the popular Italian operas then in vogue, some now almost completely forgotten. They are nicely composed and allow much opportunity for the performer to show lyrical expression as well as agile register-crossing and lightning-fast fingerwork. All of this is superbly handled by Christopher Redgate who can often be found in avant-garde repertoire where virtuosity of musicianship as well as technicality is vital.

Pasculli is describe by Redgate as ‘the Paganini of the oboe’. Sadly he was not such a comparably talented composer and I must say that for me these works had to be taken one at a time as I soon wearied of them. However they each push virtuosity on the instrument to a spectacular level and Redgate negotiates everything with immaculate aplomb.

The CD starts (and it would surely have been better placed in the middle of the recital) with ‘The Bees’. This is a four minute non-stop romp which is quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. I would almost say that it is the most difficult oboe piece ever composed. However having recently heard music by and composed for Heinz Holliger I am probably wrong but perhaps not so very far off the mark. It is this piece that demands circular breathing but it also this piece which demanded a better recording. The boxy sound and the lack of dynamic contrast which seems to result makes me feel somewhat relieved when it is over. I feel particular sorry for Stephen Robbings whose assured and sensitive accompanying is a little lost by poor microphoning.

 The ‘Fantasias’ fall into four or five movements each separately tracked but played without a break. Each contains several themes contrasted in speed and key. The concertos (were they ever orchestrated?) are more classical generally consisting of a portentous piano introduction leading to an Allegro. Then comes a slower middle movement which, in the case of the Donizetti ‘La Favorita’, is a theme and variations. There is an Allegro finale but again with a slow introduction led by the piano. Normally each concerto has two complex and virtuoso cadenzas which are by Pasculli himself.

Don’t be put off by the horridly gaudy cover which seems to have amongst its neon lights a crucified Christ (!) because this is an incredible CD for everyone who enjoys brilliant performers and performances. Not however for listeners who prefer profound music.

Gary Higginson - http://www.musicweb.uk.net/classrev/2003/Nov03/pasculli.htm

FINNISSY Lost Lands

Virtuosic and explosive music, with a frame of reference from jazz to Kurdistan, which proves itself fully engaged with the world

Pianist lan Pace, who was the star of last year's double-CD Finnissy album from METIER (4/02), takes a back seat in this latest addition to the series. It is as well recorded as ever, and offers a substantial and memorable programme. This time it's Christopher Redgate, oboist in Pace's Topologies ensemble, who is featured, and Redgate's phenomenal breath and finger control is heard to startling effect in two solo pieces whose titles - Moon goin' down and Runnin' wild evoke jazz standards, while steering well clear of the clich├ęs often found in more explicit 'crossover' music.

All the other works (composed between 1977and 1990) demonstrate Finnissy's affinity with ethnic musics and, in the case of Lost Lands, with the ideas of the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Finnissy has a genius tor transforming diverse source materials into his own intricate, intense style, while remaining true to the ethos of the original. Here, the trilogy formed by Dilok, Delal and Kulamen Dilan is inspired by Kurdish folk music, and in the third piece soprano saxophone replaces oboe in a duelling duet with percussion. This encapsulates the virtuosity with which the composer spins an elaborate yet rawly expressive melodic line against explosive rhythmic patterns which seem to stimulate the melody while at the same time seeking to overwhelm it.

Lost Lands is the longest work, its complex single-movement form well-shaped under expert conductor Mikel Toms. The music is suffused with that spirit of anger and lament which fits with Finnissy's ethical concern to use folk material 'to redress imbalance and neglect'. But Keroiylu for oboe, bassoon and piano is even more powerful. The title refers to an heroic folk dance from Azerbaijan, and in Finnissy's response hyperactive scurryings within narrow spans are set in stark relief by more expansive yet no less dramatic materials. If you need convincing that so-called 'complex' composers live in the real world, you need look no further.

Arnold Whittall

This invaluable disk in Metier’s Finnissy series focuses on woodwind instruments, notably the Oboe, or, to be more precise, the Oboe as moulded, manipulated and cajoled by Christopher Redgate.  All seven pieces take as their starting point aspects of musical cultures that Finnissy views as being threatened in some way.  This is not too hard to grasp in the Azerbaijani echoes of Keroiylu of the Arabic inspired trilogy of the Dilok,Delal, and Kulamen Dilan, the first two of which find Redgate's open throated sound wonderfully evocative of the middle eastern antecedents of the Oboe, with succinct percussion support from Julian Warburton.  By contrast, it takes Finnissy's insistence that jazz is ‘an emotional state rather than a harmonic/rhythmic proscription’ to unlock the more elusive notion that the freewheeling fantasias of moons going down and running wild are blues  inspired.

Christopher Dingle - BBC music magazine