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Rory Boyle - A Box of Chatter



The Woodwind Department of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is always seeking new musical challenges and has built a strong relationship with our Composition Department, in particular with Lecturer in Composition Rory Boyle. This CD celebrates the creative collaborations between Rory and the current students, recent graduates and staff of the Woodwind Department. A feature in all of these works is that Rory has sought not only to challenge the performers technically, but also to explore the rarely exploited beauty and quirks of each woodwind instrument’s unique voice and how they interact together. The result is this enthralling wind ‘chatter’. Heather Nicoll, Head of Woodwind

The Scottish composer Rory Boyle was born in Ayr and received his earliest musical education as a chorister at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. He studied composition with Dr Frank Spedding at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) as well as piano, clarinet, organ and conducting. A Caird Travelling Scholarship enabled him to continue his studies with Lennox Berkeley in London. His list of works covers most genres and he has received commissions from many societies, festivals and organisations including the Cheltenham, Three Choirs’, St Albans, Greenwich and Latvian Contemporary Music Festivals. His music is performed and broadcast widely both in the UK and abroad. He lives in Ayrshire and divides his time between composing and teaching at the RCS. In 2013 Rory was made a Professor of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Rory Boyle - A Box of Chatter


"Challenging, witty music for woodwind from this engaging and gifted Scottish composer." MusicWeb International


We start with Fl(ut)ing for flute quartet. For inspiration Boyle takes the word apart and produces an exciting ternary structure of flashing colours and scintillating finger-work. It acts as an ideal ‘overture’ to the remainder of the disc.

The dedicatee and performer of Burble, Fraser Langton, offered the composer “a list”, as Boyle says in his accompanying booklet notes, of various effects and alternative fingerings, which could be used on the clarinet. The resulting sounds gave the composer his inspiration as did the word Burble. To burble can mean, he reminds us, “gurgling or bubbling sounds and a rapid excited flow of speech”. So this is what happens here with a variety of colours and rapid figurations, which constantly interest the ear.

Touch plays with the word Toccata - a touch piece. Fingerings producing dual pitches and nifty finger-work in general are the order of the day. Add to this various types of tonguing’s including a sort of chuffing half breath, half pitch. The middle section is more lyrical but the outer ones are rhythmic and almost antediluvian.

Reed Talk is a witty conversation for two equal B flat clarinets. The composer remarks that the loquacious pair are “rude, cheeky and harsh” or in the case of the quieter middle section, making another ternary structure, “wistful and lamenting”. Again, Boyle explores a wide range of ‘funny’ noises and the higher registers are dramatically exposed.

The idea of conversation is continued in A Box of Chatter, the longest piece on the disc. The movement titles tell you all. A wild sounding Gossip where everyone seems to talk at once on unrelated subjects, The Pub Bore, characterised by the melancholic cor anglais, who is often being ignored and Whispering Sweet Nothings, something most of us have done at some time, a gentle teasing little number. Your call is important to us, quite appropriately, has quotes from Vivaldi’s Spring and Winter to irritate you even more and is split by rather lugubrious chords as you (im) patiently wait to speak to a human. All great fun and very witty.

The piece that I felt most drawn to was the Elegy for oboe and string quartet. Here Boyle throws off the mask and cloak and puts together a reworking of two sections from his Oboe Concerto written in memory of his sister. It starts in aching calm and becomes more distraught as it winds onwards. The music acts as a catharsis in its closing moments. George Talmaciu has a wonderfully dark hue to his lower register and Boyle exploits this to the full. A fine work.

None of these pieces outstays its welcome. The performances are wonderful, no doubt rehearsed and recorded under the composer’s eye. For these notable musicians of the future this disc must prove a landmark and they deserve all possible praise. Gary Higginson, Musicweb-International, August 2013