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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Oboe Concerto in D, AV144 (1945) [24’22]
Macbeth, Op. 23 (1890) [19’13]
Cello Sonata in F, Op. 6 (1880-83) [26’00].
Douglas Boyd (oboe); Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Paavo Berglund (Oboe Concerto); Aarhus Symphony Orchestra/Norman Del Mar (Macbeth); Sophie Rolland (cello); Marc-André Hamelin (piano).
Rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, in November 1986 (Oboe Concerto), December 17th-19th, 1993 (Cello Sonata) and Concert Hall, Aarhus, Denmark, in December 1993 (Macbeth). DDD
ASV PLATINUM PLT8519 [70’07]

 

Delving into its vaults, ASV has come up with a fascinating and rewarding disc. The linking of the magnificent, autumnal Oboe Concerto, full of compositional security and sure-footedness, with the headstrong, bravado-laden Macbeth and the throw-away cocksureness of the Cello Sonata is richly rewarding.

Good to see the long playing time, worthy of note here as the original coupling for the Oboe Concerto (the Mozart, on CDCOE808) came to a mere 44 mjnutes. Boyd and the COE evoke the aching quality of the first movement well. Only some spotlighting of woodwind contributions detracts. The clarinet at around 3’50 in is suddenly rather too close for comfort. However the long-breathed lines of the slow movement of this work from the master’s final period make up for this, weaving a calm spell over the listener. The chirpy finale is guaranteed to delight. Certainly there is much competition for this piece (Holliger on a Philips twofer, 438 733-2, or Schellenberger on DG 429 750-2 spring to mind), but Boyd will not disappoint.

The ten-second gap between tracks 1 and 2 actually heralds a leap back across 55 years. The symphonic poem Macbeth is a young man’s bravado writ large Themes are assigned to both the titular hero and his wife. Norman Del Mar was a noted Strauss scholar, and his devotion to and knowledge of this score shine out from every bar. The Danish orchestra plays its heart out for him, making the act of forgiving the occasional scrappy bit of string playing an easy one. Both Macbeth and his wife are complex characters, and the twists and turns of Strauss’s piece reflect that musically. This music is utterly Straussian through and through. The climax is as exciting as they come (around 13 minutes in), the ending marvellously tender.

The same sort of musicianly cockiness informs the writing in the Cello Sonata. It will come as no shock for the informed reader to discover that Hamelin has no problems whatsoever with the tricky piano part. He does, in fact, find much fertile ground here, and there are many felicitous touches to delight in. This is not to demean the achievement of Sophie Rolland, who despatches the cello part with aplomb. The ‘slow’ movement (Andante ma non troppo) is, rightly, the expressive highlight of the Sonata, the Allegro vivo finale returning to the swagger of the opening. As an alternative coupling for the Cello Sonata, Anne Gastinel and another big-name pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, add the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata on Auvidis V4692. Really one should have both, though.

As a whole, this disc makes for informative and rewarding listening.

Colin Clarke

 

 



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