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Franz KROMMER (1759-1831)
Oboe Quintets and Quartets

Oboe Quintet* in C, VII:12 (i) Allegro Moderato [8:17] Adagio [6:53] Menuetto and trio: Allegretto [3:48] Allegro [5:26]
Oboe Quartet in F, IX:22 (i) Allegro [4:49] (ii) Menuetto and trio [3:29] (iii) Rondo [3:39]
Oboe Quartet in C, IX:21 (i) Allegro aperto [5:46] (ii) Adagio [4:50] (iii) Rondo [3:15]
Oboe Quintet* in E flat, VII:13 (i) Allegro Moderato [8:33] Andante moderato [5:50] Menuetto and trio: Allegretto [4:07] Andante poco allegretto [5:56]
Sarah Francis (oboe), Tagore String Trio (Frances Mason, Brian Schiele, James Halsey), with Jonathan Barritt* (viola)
Rec. St. Michael’s Church, Highgate, London in August 2004 DDD
REGIS RRC1201 [75:29]

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The two oboe quintets on this disc are billed as world première recordings. They were published in 1812 but both were written considerably earlier and initially appeared as flute quintets. In those days, the reputation of the Moravian composer and violinist František Kramář (aka, in Germanised form, as Franz Krommer) vied with Haydn, particularly as a composer of string quartets, of which he wrote about eighty. He also wrote symphonies of which thirteen have survived. Having moved around central Europe quite frequently, Krommer eventually made it as a court composer in Vienna. Two hundred years on and it is almost exclusively his wind music that has stood the test of time, at least in terms of recordings. There is no doubt that this music deserves to although one is left wondering what happened to the rest of his output.

Krommer’s fertile imagination is certainly well-demonstrated on this disc in forms that broke no conventions of the time. The oboe parts are consistently grateful and the strings all get their chance to shine. The quintets are considerably bigger concepts than the quartets – in four movements rather than three and about twice the length. It is notable that the additional instrument for these works is a viola rather violin (i.e. this is not for oboe and standard string quartet).

The quartets are light in vein with touches of humour. They seemed to have been lost but were rediscovered in a Moravian castle in the 1950s and first published in 1959. The F major quartet has a central minuet rather than a slow movement and is a particular delight.

Sarah Francis is a long-established British oboist with an extensive discography. Her playing here is mellifluous and quite wonderful in every way. The Tagore String Trio was established in 1996 and their playing is also excellent, with obvious rapport between all the players. The recorded sound is bright and well-balanced, and this issue is as well-documented as some full-price releases.

Although Regis seems to specialise in budget re-issues, this is a new recording issued at their normal price. This music is well worth getting to know and fine musicianship is on offer - quite a bargain.

Patrick C Waller


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