> Trios for Oboe, Viola and Piano [GPJ]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Trios for Oboe, Viola and Piano
Robert KAHN (1865-1951)

Serenade op.73 (1923)
August KLUGHART 1847-1902)

Schilflieder, op.28 (1873)
Charles LOEFFLER (1861-1935)

Two Rhapsodies (1901)
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Trio, op.47 (1929)
Han de Vries (oboe, baritone oboe), Henk Guittart (viola), Ivo Janssen (piano)
Recorded Vaalse Kerk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 31st May - 2nd June 1995
CHANDOS CHAN 9990 [66:35]


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One of the most rewarding areas of chamber music is the repertoire that mixes the various instrumental families, as here, for example with woodwind, strings and keyboard. It will come as a surprise to many music lovers that there is enough worthwhile music for the slightly odd combination of oboe, viola and piano to fill an entire CD, but I can assure you that there’s plenty more! However, the works on this disc have been carefully selected to achieve a pleasantly contrasted programme, though inevitably the quality of the music is uneven.

Not surprisingly, it is the Hindemith Trio which is far and away the most interesting piece, and it is in fact one of his most fascinating and personal small chamber works. Hindemith is, in many senses, the Telemann of the twentieth century. He wrote so much music, and with such improbable facility, that it’s too easy to assume that none of it is much good, and thus to dismiss him as a talented hack. This is wildly misguided, for Hindemith was a true genius, with a brilliantly disciplined mind, a master of that peculiar kind of lateral thinking we call musical composition. He had an unmistakable voice, and a highly personal style, which, once you get over its initial acerbity, is full of beauty and inventiveness.

The trio has two particularly unusual aspects to it; one is its two-part structure, the first part running continuously, though in 3 sections – Solo, Arioso and Duett – while the second is a series of four short movements. The other striking feature of the piece is the use of the heckelphone, a type of baritone oboe, and quite a rarity outside the works of Richard Strauss. In the capable hands of Han de Vries, it proves to be an expressively plangent soloist. In Part 1, Hindemith begins with the piano solo, adds the heckelphone for the Arioso, completing the ensemble with the viola in the Duett. Part 2, ‘Potpourri’, explores the possibilities of the combination in four linked sections. The texture is involved and contrapuntal, culminating in a final breathless Prestissimo. The trio give a finely judged performance of this terrific little work, with the various tempi beautifully ‘geared’ to each other, though it’s a pity about the ragged final note.

The other works on the disc are not on this artistic level, though Kahn’s Serenade is a charming little piece, in one continuous movement though, like the Hindemith, in clearly defined and contrasted sections. Then follow two works inspired by poetry; August Friedrich Martin Klughart’s Schilflieder – literally ‘Reed Songs’ – is based on a series of poems by Lenau, typical, in their way, of German Romanticism, full of Nature and Lost Love and Pierced Souls. Sometimes the music’s connection with the poetry seems tenuous; hard to see what the passionate, almost heroic second movement has to do with the lugubrious poem it relates to. The third movement, however, which is also the longest, develops touchingly into a restrained, sad song for the three instruments.

Loeffler’s Two Rhapsodies after poems by Maurice Rollinat are rather more convincing. The poem behind the first one is called ‘The Pond’, and Loeffler treats it very simply and expressively. The second, ‘The Pipes’, is more agitated and complex, using the plaintive tones of oboe and viola effectively.

The three musicians play beautifully, with immaculate tuning, expressive phrasing, and excellent ensemble, and the recording captures them well. I sometimes wished, though, for more assertive viola playing from Guittart, and de Vries sounds a little tense and tentative in his softer passages. The result is that the music is well played but a little under-characterised in places, especially as some of it is in need of considerable advocacy.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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