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The Russian Oboe
Johann-Heinrich LUFT (1813-1877)
Fantasy on Russian Folk Themes Op.12 [14:54]
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Variations in G minor for oboe and wind band (1878) – arranged for oboe and piano by G. Kalinkovitch [8:59]
The Tale of Tsar Saltan Op.57 – Flight of the Bumble Bee arranged for oboe and piano by I.F.Pushechnikov [1:21]
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Pieces Op.35 – Nos. 3. Song and 4. Aubade (1908) [5:31]
Boris Vladimirovich ASAFYEV (1884-1949)
Sonatina for oboe and piano (1939) [10:00]
Nicolai TCHAREPNIN (1873-1945)
Sketches for wind instruments Op.45 Nos 3 and 4 [6:44]
Marina DRANISHNIKOVA (1929-1994)
Poème (1953) [7:15]
Nicolai Borisovich GORLOV (b.1926)
Suite (1969) [11:22]
Ivan Paisov (oboe)
Natalia Shcherbakova (piano)
rec. Studio 5, Russian State TV and radio, KULTURA, Moscow, July 2006
NAXOS 8.570596 [66:44]


Experience Classicsonline

None of the music here is particularly well known and not all of it was originally written for oboe and piano. Some corresponds to practised nineteenth century procedures of operatic scena-like curlicues; others stitch together folkloric melodies in an elegant and sophisticated tapestry that offers plenty of opportunities for the legato-spinning and virtuosity-inclined soloist. As the twentieth century progresses we find composers still cleaving strongly to romantic, old fashioned models; nothing therefore challenges the status quo. Equable ease tends to reign supreme.

Johann-Heinrich Luft was one of many musicians who journeyed eastwards to St Petersburg in the nineteenth century to help establish Russian instrumental superiority. He was reputedly the founding father of the Russian oboe school. His Fantasy on Russian Folk Themes is a rather typical operatic sounding affair but filled with light, fluid writing and divided into established sections. There are plenty of virtuoso runs and high spirits as well as a more intense slower variation that extracts some expressive mileage.

Rimsky-Korsakov is a scion of the Russian school of course but his Variations were originally written for oboe and wind band - this arrangement is by G. Kalinkovitch. There’s a dramatic piano introduction and the subsequent variations – on a song by Glinka – have an appealing and only occasionally vapid charm. The most impressive moment is the fine oboe soliloquy with its arresting rather military fanfare moments.  Glière moves us onto 1908, the year of Rimsky’s death. His Op.35 was written for a variety of wind instruments; numbers three and four specifically for the oboe. The first is very brief and lyric; the second even briefer and tinged with tristesse.

Asafyev wrote his Sonatina in 1939. It’s an amiable, larky confection, very concise – the scherzo lasts a minute and three quarters – and therefore abjuring all seriousness, even in the slow movement. Tcherepnin’s here undated Sketches cleave to the School of Parisian Languor. Marina Dranishnikova’s Poème was written in 1953 and is reputed to have inspired by an unhappy love affair. Certainly the piano opens proceedings sternly but the pleading oboe (male/female?) soon establishes primacy – the oboe music has a rarefied, lyric beauty and the piano part Rachmaninovian eloquence. Gorlov wrote his Suite in 1969 though it could have been have 1919 or 1889. The central Vocalise is its most plangent and successful moment. The ubiquitous Rimsky Bee sends us on our way.

This is a pleasant, pleasurable selection very adroitly performed and recorded. It’s not music for cerebral introspection but then that was never the intention. It ranges from the virtuosic-bucolic to the mildly lovelorn without delving much deeper.

Jonathan Woolf


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