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Arnold BAX (1883-1953) Oboe Quintet (1922) [16.18]
Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863-1937) Aubade
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Pièce (vocalise, 1914)
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739) Oboe Concerto in C minor
SCARLATTI arr Bryan Oboe Concerto No. 1 in G
BARTHE Passacaille
COLIN Concertino for oboe and orchestra
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) The Swan
Francis THOMÉ (1850-1909) Simple Aveu
FIOCCO arr Bent and O'Neill Arioso
Trad arr KREISLER Londonderry Air
Léon Goossens (oboe)
Clarence Raybould (piano) (Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Thomé, Kreisler); Philharmonia/Walter Susskind (Marcello; Scarlatti); Gerald Moore (piano) (Pierné, Fiocco); International Quartet (Bax); London Wind Quintette (Barthe); Van Phillips All-Star Orchestra (Phillips)
Rec. 1931-1847. AAD
OBOE CLASSICS CC2005 [68.51]


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By chance I heard an interview the other morning on BBC Radio 4. The fashion for vibrato in the playing of instruments and in singing was being challenged. Roger Norrington was one of the interviewees. Norrington sang the praises of young orchestral players who could switch vibrato on and off in step with the tastes of their conductor. Vibrato was referred to as a 20th century import designed to lend expression and emotive charge. It seems that Leon Goossens (1897-1988) was close to the British forefront of that tendency.

Melvin Harris's excellently supportive booklet note reminds us that Goossens’ early oboe teachers had an inexpressive vibrato-less tone which the young player found unappealing. Revelation came when Goossens heard the Belgian, Henri de Busscher playing at the Queen's Hall. De Busscher played in Henry Wood's orchestra. By the time he left for the USA, young Goossens had so imbibed his style and artistry that Wood had no hesitation in selecting the sixteen year old Goossens to take his place.

Goossens’ style is free. Vibrato is in the service of an expressive emotional palette. He draws out extraordinary subtleties and gradations of tone and dynamic. He is not afraid to play quietly and allow other instruments their eminence as you can hear in the Bax Quintet.

These transfers have been accomplished with clicks nullified but with the whiskery burble of 78 ‘surface’ left intact. Thus you can hear the 'tone' of the surfaces change from disc to disc. I am glad this decision has been taken because the vivid impression left is of fidelity to the artistic event that was each recording session. If filtering or processing has been done it is unobtrusive and Goossens' tone is left to its own eloquence.

Everything about this disc speaks complimentary volumes about Oboe Classics’ styling and design which is clean yet beguiling.

The recording of the lugubriously melodious and chuckling Barthe sounds it age. The Colin similarly with a Bizet-like arioso. In this case Goossens is not really done justice to. The problem is the forced proximity of the players to the recording horn. The Swan is swiftly flowing while Thomé's Simple Aveu is operatic. Fiocco's Arioso is highly romanticised. Van Phillips’ Nicolette was inspired by a moment in time at the Café de Paris in London, when a slim French student wended her way through the crowded room. It is a splendid piece of light music; all stardust and Rachmaninov. The Bax is the world premiere recording and is valuable for that. In addition this Celtic-spirited piece displays Goossens’ artistry, his slender tone, pliant shaping and elegant approach across a substantial work.

The website for Oboe Classics includes Jennie Goossens’ memoir of her father as well as Malcolm McMillan's essay on the rewards and challenges of transferring 78s to CD.

Woodwind specialists as well as Baxians will want to snap up this lovingly compiled and presented disc.

Rob Barnett

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