Eric Biddington - Last Notes - Chamber Works. © 2022 Navona Records LLC

CD Spotlight

Effective and Uncomplicated

GEOFF PEARCE listens to chamber music by New Zealand composer Eric Biddington

'These performances are a great testament to the Christchurch music making scene and to the composer who has been an important part of it.'


This is a new release (and as the composer states, possibly the last) of the music of Eric Biddington. He is a well known composer on the Christchurch (NZ) music scene, and was widely commissioned when I lived in Christchurch in the 1990s. His music, fresh and engaging, and often witty and lively, has proven very popular with audiences over the years. This current album, comprising twenty tracks, released by Navona Records, was recorded mostly in 2020 and 2021, but a couple of tracks were recorded back in 1997. A few of the artists are known to me, and it is great to hear them performing. The disc represents the range and character of Biddington's chamber music.

The first track, A Little Dance, for clarinet and piano, is a spirited and enjoyable piece, ably performed by David McGregor and Alison Holden.

Listen — Eric Biddington: A Little Dance
(NV6431 track 1, 2:43-3:23) ℗ 2022 Navona Records LLC :

To me, the rather sombre Introit for Solo Violin and String Quintet is rather sorrowful and a lament. It receives a heartfelt performance here.

Listen — Eric Biddington: Introit for Solo Violin and String Quintet
(NV6431 track 2, 3:18-4:00) ℗ 2022 Navona Records LLC :

Four Preludes for Solo Piano are not technically demanding, and are all leisurely and reflective in character. Alison Holden performs this uncomplicated music beautifully.

This is followed by a little trio in three short movements for two oboes and piano. The first movement is contrapuntal in nature and moderately fast. The second is more expansive, relaxed in nature, and the first oboe is the more prominent of the two parts. The composer explores well the tonal qualities of two oboes playing together. The last movement is whimsical and lively, and both oboists and pianist enjoy themselves. Jenny Johnson and Ashleigh Mowbray are the fine oboists, and Alison Holden is again the pianist.

Listen — Eric Biddington: I (Trio No 2 for Two Oboes and Piano)
(NV6431 track 7, 0:00-0:44) ℗ 2022 Navona Records LLC :

Two Romances for Oboe and Piano are simple, charming and each about two-and-a-half minutes long. They are simple and charming, and Ashleigh Mowbray and Alison Holden perform them with finesse.

Sentimental Piece is performed by Carolyn Scholes and the late and loved Maurice Till, in a very beautiful performance. This was one of the earlier recorded pieces, from 1997.

Gregory McMillan-Perry and John Pattinson perform the lovely Canzonetta for oboe and piano. This is the second of the two earlier recorded pieces from 1997. This is a very nice performance, and I admired the playing of the oboist when I first heard him all those years ago. John Pattinson is a fine accompanist and conductor.

Listen — Eric Biddington: Canzonetta for Oboe and Piano
(NV6431 track 13, 0:00-0:43) ℗ 2022 Navona Records LLC :

Julie Ann Link performs a charming and witty Scherzetto for solo bassoon - very effective and beautifully performed.

Peace for Julie is a very nice piece for solo oboe, although there is also a recording of it where it is performed on soprano saxophone. Ashleigh Mowbray does a fine job, and her tonal qualities bring out the best in this music.

The Trio for Violin, viola and cello is the next work. It is in 3 movements. The first movement sarts of slowly and in an autumnal vein, but soon breaks into a livelier pace, the second is expansive and a little wistful. The third, starts of in a lively dance like manner, and then there is a quieter and slower middle section, that at times is a bit sorrowful but this dissipates with a lively coda to end the momement.

Listen — Eric Biddington: III (Trio for Violin, Viola, Violoncello)
(NV6431 track 18, 0:02-0:40) ℗ 2022 Navona Records LLC :

The final works on this disc are the two pieces for bassoon and piano, performed again by Jie Ann Link and Alison Holden. The first piece is leisurely and heartfelt, and the full range of the bassoon is utilised. The second is a livelier dance-like movement and this is a lovely way to end this disc.

Listen — Eric Biddington: II (Two Pieces for Bassoon and Piano)
(NV6431 track 20, 1:44-2:24) ℗ 2022 Navona Records LLC :

Eric Biddington's music is effective and uncomplicated by gimmicks and achieves its object in entertaining its listeners. These performances are a great testament to the Christchurch music making scene and to the composer who has been an important part of it.

Copyright © 13 July 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia







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