CAPRICCIO FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO Yfrah Neaman and Howard Ferguson, Aldburgh Festival, 1967

'…sure in aim. Though basically introspective, it develops from three brief ideas in a way which permits the violinist considerable passion and eloquence – a vehicle, in fact, for personal communication with an audience. The poetic ending remains in the memory. The violin writing was masterly.’
The Times

‘…really interesting. Brilliantly exploiting the tonal range of both instruments, it holds attention because of the logical development of its main argument. It also shows that the young composer can successfully wander in the field of contemplation and, as could be heard in the finale of the second section, does not shun lyrical tenderness and the deeper emotions’.

CELLO CONCERTO - 'DEATHWATCH' Rohan de Saram, with BBC Symphony Orchestra, July 1980

'…deservedly the evening's centrepiece. Letters charging me with chauvinism will be shredded unread. This concerto was unquestionably the programme's most interesting work: essentially a double-concerto for two amplified solo celli, vigorous, full of busy invention, attractive and original in cast, coherent in manner and gesture.'
Financial Times

‘A reaction to the death of a close friend, Dale Roberts’s concerto has two soloists, the principal one, last night the excellent Rohan de Saram, mirrored and distorted by Ross Pople’s amplified Doppelganger. A divided string ensemble, each player with his own part, emphasizes the privacy of this music. Its gestures are complex and deliberately agonized, decaying early on into darting snatches of of panicking, pitiful self-examination, in the manner of Maxwell Davies’s Eight Songs for a Mad King. But slowly, and ultimately impressively, its conflicts between reality and imagination, rationale and terror, resolve into a mute acceptance of the inevitable’.
The Times

CROQUIS FOR STRING TRIO Divertimento Trio, July 1990
'The UK premiere of some exquisitely crafted miniatures by Jeremy Dale Roberts… provided one of the most satisfying musical experiences I've had this year'
Independent on Sunday

WINTER MUSIC FOR ENSEMBLE Sounds Positive, June 1991
'Fine pieces by Judith Weir, Thea Musgrave, and, especially, Jeremy Dale Roberts (whose Winter Music is probably the best piece covered by this report) revealed that, however worthy, talented craftsmanship has to fight to compete with style and gimmickry'.
Musical Times

OGGETTI – OMAGGIO A MORANDI Park Lane Group, January 2004
…most intriguing was Oggetti – Omaggio à Morandi, Jeremy Dale Roberts’s collection of piano pieces which evokes the singular ‘still-lifes’ of Giorgio Morandi. Hermetic and at times inscrutable, the pieces are always intriguing and often strikingly evocative.
Richard Whitehouse,
The Classical Source

Lontano – Jeremy Dale Roberts 70th-birthday celebration Purcell Room, Sunday 30 May 2004, 7.30pm

Those who like to measure out composers’ lives in anniversaries can count themselves connoisseurs if they made this particular birthday party. Jeremy Dale Roberts, who was born in Gloucestershire in 1934 and came to his brand of internationalist modernism only after early contact with the very English father figures of Gerald Finzi and Ralph Vaughan Williams, has never received attention comparable to that which brings his exact contemporaries Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle major Proms features this summer. But he has kept his integrity through the changes of the stylistic weather-vane which one associates with those four names, and produced a considered and refined output of perfectly crafted chamber works through what is now close on fifty years.

Not the least reason Dale Roberts has remained such a well-kept secret must be the near-absence of orchestral music from his worklist. He is a composer predisposed to the small and carefully made, whether in terms of instrumental forces, movement size, or expressive gesture. Which is not to say that he has eschewed the substantial utterance: rather that, as with Oggetti – Omaggio a Morandi (2001–3), a half-hour piano work premiered in this year’s Park Lane Group January concerts, or its predecessor, Tombeau, written in 1966–9 for Stephen Kovacevich, he prefers to put together a sequence of miniatures, a mosaic-like construction which speaks obliquely out of its intersections and odd angles of juxtaposition. The visual analogy is not accidental. Dale Roberts’s oeuvre manifests a collector’s openness to influence from other art forms, other areas of life (everyday bric-à-brac as much as exquisite rarities), other cultures. Encountering this music, one imagines the composer surrounded by an array of objects, some strange, some prosaic, all ripe for absorption in a new work of art.

Lontano’s tribute concert assembled four pieces which between them put on display several related preoccupations: the miniature form and associated possibilities of extended structuring; the use of quotation from other composers’ music; and a fondness for unusual instrumentations. Hamadryad (2001), for alto flute, viola and guitar, showed most clearly its composer’s international cast of mind and his primary stylistic orientation, a kind of ascetically sumptuous exoticism here evoking the sound-world of late-Debussy-thru-Le marteau sans maître, no doubt partly influenced by Dale Roberts’s teacher Priaulx Rainier but quite personal in its oblique beauty.

Perhaps the least ‘French’ of the works heard tonight, despite its title, was Croquis, composed in 1976–80 for members of the Arditti Quartet. In one way, Dale Roberts is a sort of English Kurtág, and that aspect was at its clearest in this trio, a suite-like convolute (to borrow a term from Walter Benjamin’s English translators)obeying Brian Ferneyhough’s dictum that the string trio has a history and a genetic make-up more ‘alternative’ and more various than that of the quartet. The title means ‘sketch’, and appears to designate certain sections as well as the work as a whole, though the programme note was so unclear that I remain unsure whether we heard the complete work or – as I suspect – movements of a larger opus designed for partial performance in this manner. There was a piece of exquisite ‘chinoiserie’ and a shadowily fascinating berceuse ‘pour les violes’. Snatches of Vivaldi, Elgar, Bartók, LutosÅ‚awski and others were just the musical elements in a piece which drew for its inspiration on a diverse list of objets trouvés – Blake’s woodcuts and the drawings of Watteau were also among those cited by the composer.

Other musics got a look-in, too, in Layers (1995), Purcell in his tercentenary year meeting Chopin, Debussy and Mahler in a rather uglified response to Dido’s beautiful lament. This was one of two pieces, framing the programme, which originally arose as commissions from the ensemble Sounds Positive for its idiosyncratic line-up of four high melody instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet and trumpet. But it was the evocative Winter Music (1990) which seemed the more
successful solution to the inherent problems (how to achieve variety and relief with four wind instruments of similar register and limited compass), with its judicious use of the cor anglais and of the clarinet’s chalumeau register, as well as the halo of tuned percussion and bells surrounding the core quartet. Both pieces were played, like all of the music tonight, by a line-up of committed Lontano regulars.

…… the Dale Roberts recordings scheduled for release in early 2005 will be a more
than usually welcome addition to Lontano’s burgeoning discography (on their own
Lorelt label) of neglected composers, and a chance to re-hear this difficult, rewarding music, which gives up its secrets slowly.

John Fallas,
The Classical Source

Lontano, May 2004
‘… a composer who over 40 years has amassed a small, intensely honed and crafted body of work. The music has an attractive self-deprecating quality, unfolding in a series of muted, weightless gestures, each separated from the next by a pregnant silence. Just when the muffled crepuscular atmosphere threatened to become monotonous, there would be a sudden moment of fierceness, and in Winter Music the music rose to a loud climax, with incandescent,ear-tickling sounds of high tubular bells and celeste and burbling woodwind.’
Ivan Hewett, The Times


(Lorelt LNT118)
Winter Music; Croquis (selection); Oggetti – Omaggio à Morandi;
Wieglied; Layers; Hamadryad
Lontano – conducted by Odaline de la Martinez
Hiroaki Takenouchi – Piano
Dimitri Murrath – Viola
Sunday Times, 9th April 2006

Dale Roberts is well known as a composition teacher, but this disc, reflecting a concert for his 70th birthday given by Lontano (itself 30 years old), makes clear his own, distinctive creative voice. His studiously economical but intense style – minimising rhetoric but certainly not “minimalist” – has been compared to that of the painter Morandi, and the 25-minute collection of piano pieces, Oggetti (played by Hiroake Takenouchi), is indeed an omaggio à Morandi. Croquis (for string trio) lightens the modernist mood, with a quodlibet movement made from fragments of great music. Winter Music is a powerful, bleak sextet, climaxing on a searing trumpet outburst.
Paul Driver Sunday Times

The Music of Jeremy Dale Roberts (CD)

Jeremy Dale Roberts is now 72 and has pursued a distinguished career as composer and teacher for many years, so this recent CD from Lontano is both welcome in that it reminds us of the voice of one of the more philosophical British composers of his generation and hopefully will enable a wider public to come into contact with music that has been unjustly neglected.

This music certainly deserves wider appreciation. Jeremy Dale Roberts is a remarkable figure in that whilst acknowledging a broad range of influences he has remained utterly true to himself. There are within his music rare feelings of a fragile but not weak beauty, of a delight in sound per se, not sounds of hefty orchestral tuttis, but those of a solo line, or instrumental coloration, the importance of which often passes superficial listeners by.

The biggest work by far here is the Oggeti for Piano Solo, much of it in slow time, which receives a performance of considerable concentration and beauty of touch from Hiroaki Takenouchi. The shorter Wieglied for Solo Viola is equally well played by the gifted Dimitri Murrath. The other pieces here are scored for various instrumental combinations and are given with assurance and commitment by Lontano under the admirably indefatigable Odaline de la Martinez. The recordings are excellent, as is the presentation. A valuable disc.
Robert Matthew-Walker


(NMC D151)
Tristia: six lyric pieces for violin and piano -Peter Sheppard-Skaerved (violin) and Aaron Shorr (piano); Croquis: 27 miniatures for string trio in three cahiers – members of the
Kreutzer quartet: Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, Morgan Goff, Neil Hayde

Some may have first encountered English composer Jeremy Dale Roberts on the recent NMC Songbook; his ‘Spoken to a Bronze Head’ was a highlight. Born in 1934, Roberts has been as sparing in output as he is spare in style. His writing is typically limited in range and restrained in dynamic, alternating small, lapidary passages with pungently ambiguous outbreaks. An exception was the 1971-74 Cello Concerto: Deathwatch for Rohan de Saram (and second amplified cellist), which saw his imagination working on a larger scale. In the aftermath, Roberts began a small scale ‘notebook’ of sketches for string trio, eventually broadcast on Radio 3 as interstitials to a whole evening of broadcasting. Originally played by members of the Arditti Quartet, they’re given here by Kreutzer Quartet players, though it’s the continuous performance rather than any aspect of their very accurate, slightly dry delivery that heightens the greater sense of continuity and internal logic. The other piece is the recent Tristia for violin (PSS) and piano (AS), and the most nakedly lyrical work in Roberts’ short worklist. Inspired by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, it has the quality of a series of sepia photographs animated for a tantalisingly brief moment before the final silence.
Jim Haynes, The Wire


… A memorable chamber work for strings received its world premiere at Wilton’s Music hall on 22 May 2013. Jeremy Dale Roberts’s String Quintet for two violins viola and two cellos, is dedicated to Erika Fox and to the memory of Dale Roberts’s teacher Priaulx Rainier. Various stimuli inspired the piece, including Rainier herself, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Edward Munch’s ‘Frieze of Life’ series of paintings and the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva. Several of these creative triggers suggested elements of the sea and its tides and also the viola’s sound and ambivalent register, and consequently the Quintet places that instrument at its heart. Despite all those potent and wide-ranging cultural influence, the work is not overtly programmatic: when fashioning his material, the composer took his cue from the interplay between the five protagonists and their ever-changing configurations. Unusually, the 35-minute work was conceived specifically to frame the interval of a concert, so that the first part, comprising three movements entitled ‘The Caller on the Shore’, ‘Moments of Being’ and ‘Dancer on the shore’ is played at the end of theconcert’s first half, whilst the fourth and final movement, which constitutes the second part, is performed directly after the intermission. Like the dinner that concludes the first part of To the Lighthouse, the first half of Robert’s work ends with a kind of party, in the form of a dance employing rhythms and scordatura associated with Norwegian ‘slatter’. In a further reference to Woolf’s novel, the death of Mrs Ramsay is recalled by the silencing of the viola after the interval, and the resultant void revealed in the musical fabric. This highly effective gesture, with its visual element of an empty chair left onstage, added emotional weight to the initially numb and disjointed reactions of the remaining players, which launch the poignant narrative
of the second part.

Jeremy Dale Roberts has suggested that the Quintet’s first section may be given on its own as a separate entity, but the moving second half seemed to be a necessary corollary of the first. In this closing movement there was a palpable sense of something having changed irrevocably. Various stages of grief and loss, from stunned impassivity to raging anger and finally a grudging reconciliation to the situation via memory (the latter communicated dramatically by the reappearance of the viola, playing off-stage) were powerfully delineated, casting long and heavy shadows back over the previous three movements. This is a psychologically resonant work, which cries out for the repeated hearings a recording can offer; in the context of the whole piece, the viola’s central role and key thematic importance in the first half assumes infinitely subtle yet vital layers of new meaning.

This outstanding score has taken several years to come to achieve performance, but it has been well worth the wait. A deeply personal work of universal significance, it has the rare courage to demand a high degree of emotional and intellectual involvement from its audience, and such involvement is amply rewarded. The Kreutzer Quartet and cellist Bridget McCrea, for whom this piece was written and who have been involved in its creative development at every step of the way, met its huge technical and interpretive challenges with prodigious virtuosity and profound musicianship. It is to be hoped that NMC, who have already release a disc featuring Dale Roberts’s chamber and instrumental works performed by the Kreutzer Quartet, will lose no time in getting these players to set down this exceptional and visionary new addition to the repertoire.

Paul Conway, Tempo Magazine (October 2013)