Sunday, 8 March 2015

A very welcome release of works for strings by F L Dunkin Wedd performed by the Bingham String Ensemble and the Bingham String Quartet on a new release from Con Brio

F L (Laurie) Dunkin Wedd  was born at Chiddingstone Castle, Kent in 1955. He studied piano and cello at school and as a teenager played guitar, writing material for folk and jazz groups. He later went on to play the viola. He was composing even before he could read music, engaging the assistance of his elder sister to write the music down.

It was in the 1980s, when he studied privately with Peter Aviss and Barry Seaman and attended seminars at the Royal Northern College of Music, that he began serious composition. His piece Dimitri’s Train won first prize in its category in the London Chamber Group Piece of the Year competition in 2003, winning best piece for string quartet and wind solo. His music has been performed as far afield as Tennessee, Germany and Azerbaijan and includes symphonic and choral music; songs; chamber music for piano, wind, brass and strings, and music for a film with an opera near completion.

 A new release from Con Brio brings together a number of Dunkin Wedd’s works for strings performed by the Bingham String Ensemble directed by Steve Bingham , the Bingham String Quartet  with Steve Bingham (violin) James Halsey (cello) and Maurice Hodges (piano) .
The Bingham String Ensemble brings us Three Brunel Crossings which was first performance on 14th August 1997 by the London String Soloists at Merton College, Oxford. It is in three movements opening with Rotherhithe where insistent strings bring an opening motif that is slowly varied to fine effect before broadening and richening. It develops through some fine string passages, growing in intensity, before slowing and leading into the opening motif only to vary again before the coda.

With Saltash the basses bring a motif to which the cellos join slowly, an insistent, even repetitive theme that nevertheless creates a strong atmosphere. Soon all the strings come together as the theme achieves a rhythmic lilt, moving forward before slowly rising as a broader moment appears over the insistent theme. The insistent theme continues before quietening as the strings slowly reduce for the coda.

A rich full string sound opens the Clifton with broad phrases before a more rhythmic theme arrives.  There is some very fine writing as the strings develop the theme, which soon varies in rhythmic nature before picking up even more momentum before the sudden coda.

This is a very attractive work that brings much fine string writing. Although the recording has a slightly hollow sounding acoustic, it is detailed and clear.

Django for violin and piano received its first performance on 4th February 2001 with Penelope Howard (violin) and Clifford Benson (piano) at Tonbridge, Kent. Here it is performed by Steve Bingham (violin) and Maurice Hodges (piano).

In four movements, Five – Four opens with repeated chords from the violin, reflected by the piano before the violin brings a more flowing melody. Soon both players develop the theme through some fine passages, often with a folksy, even jazz like rhythmic quality. Later the piano takes the tune against pizzicato violin before exchanging roles, developing some fine string chords before the end. March opens slowly on a long drawn violin chord with the piano revealing a theme. Soon the violin takes the theme, a very lovely melody, a little melancholic, before it is slowly developed with more rhythmic variation before slowing to lead to the coda.

The short movement, Walking Bass, has an unashamedly jazz rhythm with pizzicato violin over syncopated piano. This is a particularly lovely little piece that takes a leisurely walk before a piano chord leads straight into the final movement, Gipsy Behop which takes off at a terrific pace with pizzicato violin over piano in a Hungarian gypsy style piece with many varied rhythms that occasionally introduce a jazz style. The music slows for a passage with some lovely rich playing from the violin before speeding again to the coda.

This, another terrific piece, is extremely well performed here. Though the recording is rather close and dry it is very clear and detailed.

Homage to Luis for string quartet is a tribute to the composer’s uncle who took his own life in 1945. Played here by the Bingham String Quartet, it rises up full of emotion with some extremely fine string writing with agonising dissonances. Soon there is a moment where a lovely cello/viola line is held over a string chord, one of many fine moments in this piece. As the theme is developed, there is a sudden outburst from the violin echoed by the other members of the quartet but the slower, quieter, tender theme returns. The drama rises again before a deep cello passage arrives to which the whole quartet join as the cello theme is developed. There are some astringent passages before the deep cello theme returns only to be followed by a sudden quartet flourish but it is a broader passage that leads to the coda.

Though just under ten minutes in duration, it is obvious that Dunkin Wedd has poured out his inner most feelings in this fine work, wonderfully played by the Binghams.

The recording is very good.

The Piano Trio is played here by Steve Bingham (violin) James Halsey (cello) and Maurice Hodges (piano). It is in four movements, with the first, Township Stomp, opening with a hesitant theme before quickly moving forward rhythmically, the composer creating a fine effect with each instrument echoing each other. Soon a more flowing jazz inflected passage arrives full of rhythmic swing before the opening theme reappears to lead to the end. Slow has a fine theme for strings played over strumming piano chords, the two string players revealing the emotional core to the music. Soon the music fragments a little as another variation arrives, though the music soon flows ahead again with an unusual rhythmic yet romantic melody which breaks up for a faster section before slowing for the sudden coda.

Morrish Dance has a lovely little dance shared around the players before they come together, again a little folksy in feel and subjected to a number of terrific variations before suddenly speeding to the coda. The Finale brings another fine theme that is developed through some very fine moments, often more thoughtful with some lovely little twists. There are staccato phrases before the piano takes the melody, with all of the players eventually taking the rhythmic opening theme to the coda, getting ever faster.

Steve Bingham, James Halsey and Maurice Hodges give a very fine performance and are nicely recorded. 

Dunkin Wedd’s String Quartet No.3, played here by the Bingham String Quartet, is inscribed with Browning’s line:

‘That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you think he never can recapture
The first fine careless rapture.’

Again in four movements, First Fine Careless Rapture takes the music forward at a fine rhythmic pace before a melody is revealed out of the opening motif. The rhythmic syncopated theme continues before it is developed bringing an attractive theme with more fine string writing. Second opens with a melody that could be from a late19th century quartet, a beautiful piece which these players allow to rise and fall as it makes its way forward, exquisitely played. There are some lovely string textures beautifully realised here before the gentle coda.

A lively rhythmic Scherzo (Canonballs) follows that hints at traditional tunes such as London Bridge in Falling Down and The Keel Row as it weaves a bluesy canon, a most unusual variety of canon, wonderfully woven and great fun before the cello leads to the coda. Bow taps suddenly introduce the Final Fling before a pizzicato motif leaps around. Soon a more flowing theme for the cello arrives, set against a pizzicato accompaniment. The music is interrupted by moments of syncopated rhythms before a pizzicato chord ends the movement.

This is a very fine quartet indeed given a terrific performance by the Bingham String Quartet. The recording is very good.

Finally we have the work that gives this disc its title. Like Water and Like Wind was written in 2004, its title coming from Fitzgerald’s translation of Omar Khayyám ‘I came like Water, and like Wind I go.’ The composer tells us that it started out as an experiment to see if serial technique could generate music that moves the spirit, though the 12 tone music is generally compressed into the opening chords. Played here by the Bingham String Ensemble there is a rich opening that leads to a fine broad flowing melody. It is true that the music’s tonality is very loose but it is wholly melodic as it progresses through quieter passages, moments of richer, deep string sounds before firmer string chords lead to the coda which is left in the air.

Serial or not, Dunkin Wedd manages to express some fine thoughts in this short, but extremely attractive work.

Dunkin Wedd is a composer of great versatility yet with a clearly defined personal style. His music deserves a wider audience, particularly his very fine third quartet.

There are brief but useful booklet notes. This is a very welcome release.  

1 comment:

  1. Bravo Laurie - and thank you for giving us such lovely music.