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Nicholas Daniel

  • Conductor
  • Oboist


Nicholas Daniel reviews

Aldeburgh Festival 2009 Review
From The Times - Richard Morrison

If the final weekend of the Aldeburgh Festival demonstrated nothing else, it showed how some musicians could perform the Yellow Pages and still grip an audience. The oboist Nicholas Daniel, for instance, in a fine recital with the pianist Charles Owen, took what seemed like a whimsical, palindromic programme — Bach sonatas and Schumann, framing tough-nut pieces by Elliott Carter and Birtwistle, which themselves framed a suite by the Czech composer Pavel Haas — and turned it into a thrilling two hours.

On a clammy day the perspiration poured from Daniel, and his facial muscles sometimes looked as if they would erupt. Yet no hint of that physical effort appeared in his hugely ebullient interpretations. Whether in a lilting Bach siciliano, Schumann’s gorgeously poignant tunes, Carter’s extremities and overtones or Birtwistle’s playful aleatorism, Daniel’s playing went straight to the heart of the matter. The climax was the Haas: an anguished, angry then transcendentally beautiful response to the Nazi invasion, soaked in references to Czech songs and hymns and written by a man who would perish in his mid-forties in Auschwitz.


Proms 2008 reviews

18 July 2008, Mozart oboe concerto
BBCSO/Jiri Belohlavek

a sprightly performance of Mozart's Oboe Concerto, K314, soloist Nicholas Daniel performing his own cadenzas, the first of which had bird-song elasticity (cheekiness marked his whole approach)

In between these monumental works by Strauss the ensemble dwindled to chamber-orchestra size for what was arguably the highlight of the evening. Nicholas Daniel's risk-taking account of Mozart's Oboe Concerto in C major, K.314 was an unadulterated treasure, bursting with exuberant charisma and optimistic allure. Invitingly accompanied by the orchestra, Daniel injected a real sense of fun into the jocular outer movements, whilst the central Adagio non troppo was marked by a recapitulation of captivating stillness, achieving an astonishing, even haunting air of intimacy – a remarkable achievement in the capacious confines of the Royal Albert Hall. ... this was well-known Mozart at its utopic heights – a glorious voyage of rediscovery that had an entire concert hall enraptured and enthralled.


28 July 2008
Elliott Carter oboe concerto
BBCSO/David Robertson

a virtuoso performance

Blessed with the nimblest fingers and the breath control of a Buddhist monk, Nicholas Daniel couldn't have been more mercurial as he traced Carter's solo line. Tone, colour and attack changed with lightning speed; crossing the gaping intervals between two notes seemed as easy as jumping puddles. And he was puckish, properly puckish, settling into sustained lyric song only in the middle section, Carter's own midsummer dream.
The Times, Geoff Brown

... the virtuosic soloist Nicholas Daniel. Carter lays out his glass beads in a game of mystifying complexity. A performer like Daniel reveals the luminous beauty in it, too.
Evening Standard, Fiona Maddocks

The performance of the Oboe Concerto was the distinct highlight of this programme, not least because its personality was projected so clearly. Carter explores the traits of the oboe almost as if the instrument were part of a human drama. In much of the concerto it plays a game of cat and mouse with the orchestra. But notably in the central section, the oboe's lyrical properties are extensively exploited, with Daniel here demonstrating his seamless line and the ample range of colour that he has at his disposal.
Daily Telegraph, Geoffrey Norris

Joined by Nicholas Daniel, Robertson and a slimmed down BBC SO went on to give the most precise and characterful account of Elliott Carter's Oboe Concerto (1986-7) this pair of ears has yet heard.
The Independent

a virtuoso performance
The Guardian


Reviews of Thea Musgrave's Two's Company for Oboe and Percussion - PROMS 2007

Published: 04 September 2007, the Independent

Prom 63: BBC SO / Belohlavek, Royal Albert Hall, London
By Robert Maycock

It was almost cosy. Both Nicholas Daniel and Dame Evelyn Glennie are prominent players of Thea Musgrave's concertos, and the composer has been a Proms regular for nearly half a century. Now here came another BBC commission, Two's Company, a double concerto for oboe and percussion that she wrote specifically for these two

Musgrave's take on concert music has often been theatrical, and mobile performers were again a feature. Glennie began half- hidden behind chimes, bells and gongs at the back of the cellos, looking like Trilok Gurtu at the start of one of his improvisations. Daniel appeared from the stalls opposite, and moved hesitantly towards the orchestra in response to plaintive calls from the woodwind.

The music then proceeded as a choreographed flirtation. As Daniel came into sight, Glennie ran away to another island of percussion at the rear. When he got too close, she moved to more aggressive instruments and drove him back. Finally, a melting lyrical line lured her to join him near the conductor, where a marimba awaited, and the music emerged from its anxious, restless state into a vigorous fandango.

Far from being imposed on the piece, this little drama was the outward expression of what was going on within the music. Musgrave's writhing counterpoints, with their restless, post-Debussy harmonic flavour, reached several crises that articulated the 25-minute span. Players from the orchestra stood up from time to time and engaged in secondary conversations. The whole work, scored with delicacy and grace, swept forward with a gathering momentum, and the total experience was captivating.


BBC Proms: A marriage of opposites
Geoffrey Norris reviews the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Belohlávek at Albert Hall
The Daily Telegraph

Thea Musgrave was in the hall last night to hear the première of her beguiling new concerto for oboe, percussion and orchestra called Two's Company. The title says it all.

This is a musical courtship, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Belohlávek acting as facilitators in a romance between a pair of seemingly incompatible instrumental forces.

In an almost theatrical, and certainly poetic, way, the piece conjures up the hopes, doubts, difficulties and resolutions of a relationship, and the fact that all the performers embraced one another at the end seemed to signal that everything had turned out well.

The couple in question here were the oboist Nicholas Daniel and percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

The opening of the concerto is marked "desolate, lonely", featuring the oboe in disconsolate phrases against seductive percussion of mellow tones. Playfulness and then tensions ensue, with the percussionist turning intimidatingly towards the more robust instruments in her arsenal.

The oboist moves tentatively around the platform, the two protagonists circling and eyeing one another and gradually reaching an understanding on the firm foundation of a C major chord.

The instruction to be "warm" in the penultimate section had shifted to "passionate" in the final one, the music correspondingly reflecting a growing sense both of ease and of exultation.

Beautifully played here, Two's Company had at its root a cunning idea that married music to an eternal emotional conundrum, and, with the orchestral commentary and encouragement, was acted out with a poignancy that will have brought a smile of recognition or remembrance to many a listener.



The Guardian - Monday September 3, 2007

3 stars Royal Albert Hall, London
Erica Jeal

There is a gentle element of spectacle to Thea Musgrave's new work, Two's Company, written for the odd soloistic couple of oboist Nicholas Daniel and percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Unattended clusters of percussion instruments are ranged at various points around a chamber-sized orchestra. Glennie begins stage right, adding low chimes and sweeps of glittering bells to an elegiac, deep-breathing opening. When Daniel joins in, duetting with cor anglais, viola and clarinet in turn before settling on a dialogue with Glennie, it is from up the steps on the other side.

The rest of the piece sees the two moving to different stations around the orchestra - Glennie on marimba, then drums and wood blocks - while getting ever closer, until Glennie lets Daniel lead her to the xylophone at the front, where they combine in more conventional duet.

It works... At 20 minutes the piece is hardly insubstantial, but ... the sight of Glennie hitching up her dress and striding round to thwack the bass drum suggested it might be about nothing more poetic than a domestic row. Still, that was good enough for Strauss. And Musgrave's musical style, tonal but never obvious, remains intriguingly and appealingly her own.



Other Reviews of Nicholas Daniel's recent performances

January 11, 2007

Hilary Finch at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham

At the centre, Richard Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra — and, on either side of this late-flowering bloom of the composer’s Indian Summer, music from the vanished world of which he dreamt, and which he both celebrated and mourned in works such as Rosenkavalier and Metamorphosen.

Nicholas Daniel was the soloist — and his playing was the very embodiment of that “classical” spirit that Strauss exuberantly and nostalgically transformed in the filigree of his imagination. A levitating caprice of a first movement, every tone and texture exquisitely balanced by Oramo, led to Daniel’s long-breathed arioso of a slow movement. His oboe’s tone, modulated by virtuoso breath control, became ever richer and more intense, ending in an enraptured half-voice.

Daniel, who is spending more and more of his time conducting, seemed to be vicariously living every second of every orchestral part too. And in the finale, the sensitivity of his chamber-musical relationship with his woodwind colleagues was both touching and illuminating.


December 14, 2006

Nicholas Daniel, City Halls, Glasgow

What a sweet and enticing oblivion it was that oboist Nicholas Daniel and pianist/composer Huw Watkins evoked on Tuesday afternoon at their BBC Radio 3 Reed Between the Lines concert. Daniel, one of Britain's leading oboists, appeared affable and relaxed during a performance that took in Schumann, Nielsen, Britten and Mozart, as well as a composition by Watkins. Entitled Two Romances, this two-movement work was built around some frantic exchanges between piano and oboe, with the latter making use of a striking major-tenth interval. The second of the movements was an introspective and intelligent work in which sudden melancholy phrases exposed the oboe's true lyrical potential.

Daniel excels in transforming the timbre of each note as it sounds, and this was particularly clear in his unaccompanied rendition of Britten's Six Metamorphoses After Ovid. His chameleon capabilities allowed him to be at one moment the jovial Pan; the next the tragic Niobe, turned into stone as she mourned the death of her 14 children.