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Tommaso ALBINONI (1671-1751)
Concerto in D minor for oboe and strings, Op. 9 No 2 (1722) [10:47]
Concerto in C major for two oboes and strings, Op. 7 No. 2* (1715) [4:51]
Concerto in D major for oboe and strings, Op. 7 No. 6 (1715) [6:33]
Concerto in C major for two oboes and strings, Op. 9 No. 9* (1722) [9:57]
Concerto in D major for two oboes and strings, Op. 7 No. 8* (1715) [6:01]
Concerto in C major for oboe and strings, Op. 9 No. 5 (1722) [8:25]
Concerto in B flat major for oboe and strings, Op. 7 No. 3 (1715) [7:02]
Concerto in F major for two oboes and strings, Op. 9 No 3* (1722) [10:38]
Concerto in b flat major for oboe and strings, Op. 9 No. 11 (1722) [10:02]
Concerto in C major for two oboes and strings, Op. 7 No. 11* (1715) [7:13]
Concerto in G minor for oboe and strings, Op. 9 No. 8 (1722) [9:43]
Concerto in C major for two oboes and strings, Op. 7 No. 5* (1715) [4:41]
Concerto in F major for oboe and strings, Op. 7 No. 9 (1715) [5:49]
Concerto in G major for two oboes and strings, Op. 9 No. 6* (1722) [9:00]
Concerto in C major for two oboes and strings, Op. 7 No. 12* (1715) [7:05]
Concerto in D major for two oboes and strings, Op. 9 No. 12* (1722) [6:48]
Concerto in B flat major for violin and strings, Op. 9 No. 1** (1722) [7:26]
Concerto in F major for violin and strings, Op. 9 No. 10** (1722) [10:19]
Concerto in D major for violin and strings, Op. 9 No. 7** (1722) [13:48]
Concerto in A major for violin and strings, Op. 9 No. 4** (1722) [8:43]
Stefan Schilli (oboe), Giovanni Deangeli (oboe)*, Tanja Becker-Bender (violin)**;
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra/Nicholas Matt
European Chamber Soloists/Nicholas Matt**
rec. Bauer Studios, Ludwigsburg, Germany, 2005; Katholische Kirche, Illingen, Germany, 2005**
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92791 [3 CDs: 64:27 + 60:33 + 40:23]

 

The instrument we now recognise as the oboe was, in its earliest form, the creation of French instrument makers in the 1650s. It was essentially the product of a desire to make a version of the shawm that would be suitable for indoor use. Makers such as Hotteterre and Philidor produced an instrument smaller than the shawm and less pungent, more haunting in tone. This new instrument was being played in Venice shortly before the end of the seventeenth century. Sonatas and concertos for the instrument were composed with some frequency in the city in the early part of the eighteenth century. Though no oboe concerto by Vivaldi was published until 1716, he had probably written some such concertos a little earlier. Albinoni’s first published concertos for the instrument appeared in his Op. 7 collection, Concerto a cinque.

Vivaldi’s oboe concertos generally seem to model the solo part on the existing example of the violin concerto – that is, Vivaldi’s writing for oboe is very similar to his writing for the violin, with due allowance for the necessary differences between the two instruments. Albinoni, on the other hand, seems – as Michael Talbot suggests in his 1990 book on the composer, Tommaso Albinoni: The Venetian Composer and His World – to have taken vocal style as his model when writing for the solo oboe. There is often a decidedly ‘operatic’ aria-like quality to the oboe part in these concertos. It is perhaps worth remembering that Albinoni himself claimed to have written more than eighty operas, so the style would certainly have come very naturally to him!

The solo role is given to the oboe (or two oboes) in eight of the Op. 7 concertos and all of them are included on this CD. As Talbot points out, Albinoni’s title page describes these as concertos ‘with’ oboe, rather than ‘for’ oboe; the oboe, that is to say, is very much part of the larger musical texture of the concertos, rather than providing a virtuosic display which is merely supported by the orchestra. In fact, the writing for the oboe is not especially florid, and the interplay between violin(s) and oboe(s) is such that these are very often works characterised more by dialogue than by the assertiveness of the nominal soloist. No. 11 is a particularly fine example of the concerto for two oboes, with a lovely melodic adagio and a closing allegro which has some daring and unexpected harmonic touches. Schilli and Deangeli listen responsively to one another in these double oboe concertos and the results are very satisfying.

The concertos of Op. 9 are more expansive than their predecessors. Very often in this second batch of concertos the first violin seems to be almost as important as the solo oboe and the contrapuntal interplay between the two is often one of their most interesting features, especially in the outer movements. The adagios of this second set of concertos are consistently beautiful, with deliciously cantabile melodies for the oboe. The calm, melodic grace and balance of the adagio of the second concerto has made it something of a baroque ‘lollipop’. It is given a very attractive performance here, with some fine orchestral playing as well as excellent work from Schilli. In No. 5 the patterns of imitation in the adagio are particularly rich and entertaining. Among the concertos for two oboes, No. 3 is striking for its adoption of the ‘hunting’ style, with horn calls imitated. Elsewhere there are some delightful individual movements, such as the closing allegro, actually a minuet, of No. 6 and the moving adagio of No. 12.

The first two CDs in this set contain all of Albinoni’s concertos with oboe(s). In both Op. 7 and Op. 9 the twelve concertos include four for violin. The four from Op. 9 are recorded on the third CD. Sadly the four from Op. 7 are not included - there would surely have been room for them?

Good though it is to have all of Albinoni’s concertos with oboe(s) conveniently gathered in this way – and very decently played and recorded – it has to be said that the ideal would really be to have the whole of Opp. 7 and 9 presented, each in numerical order, so that we might appreciate the musical architecture of each of the sets. Thus, in Op. 7 the twelve concertos are arranged in four sequences of three, each sequence made up of a concerto for strings alone, followed by a concerto with two oboes and a concerto with one oboe. In Op. 9 there are, again, four sequences of three, made up this time of a concerto for violin, a concerto with single oboe and a concerto with two oboes. There are other patterns created by Albinoni’s ordering of his concertos, too, and it is unfortunate that they have been disrupted.

A missed opportunity, then, but let’s be grateful for what is here. There is an abundance of enticing music, well performed by all the soloists. Tanja Becker-Bender brings energy, lyrical feeling and, just occasionally, a bit too much vibrato, to her playing of the Op. 9 concertos for violin. The orchestral sound is beautifully blended and well recorded.

Glyn Pursglove

 

 



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