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Music for Oboe and Strings
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Oboe Quartet in F K.370 (1781)
Oboe Quintet in C minor K.406 (1787-8)
Bernhard CRUSELL (1775-1838)
Divertimento in C Op.9 (1822)
Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)
Oboe Quartet in B flat B.60 (1776)
Max Artved (oboe); Elise BŚtnes (violin); Tue Lautrup (violin/viola); Dimitri Golovanov (viola); Lars Holm Johansen (cello)
Rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen in January 2002 DDD
NAXOS 8.557361 [56:52]


The major works here are those by Mozart. The Oboe Quartet is a work derived from a visit to Mannheim and was written for the oboist Friedrich Ramm. In three movements, it is generally sunny although the central adagio has some darker overtones. The Oboe Quartet is one of Mozartís better known chamber works and so is the Quintet, but not in this format. Originally written in 1782 as a Wind Serenade (in which form it is numbered as K.388), Mozart transcribed it for String Quintet several years later. In this version (the derivation of which seems to be unknown), the oboe takes the place of the first violin. Whether or not this arrangement is authentic, it seems to work well. The basic character of the work is predominantly dark (as befits C Minor) but there can be a substantial difference in feeling between the wind and string versions. Here we get a half-way house Ė the version to play if you canít make up your mind between the others! There are four movements, the second and third of which are an andante and minuet respectively.

The playing of Max Artved and his Danish colleagues is stylish and well-judged. I have nothing to compare them against in Mozartís Quintet (and indeed it rarely seems to have been recorded in this form) but found their version of the Quartet to be markedly preferable to the one by Lothar Koch and members of the Amadeus Quartet in a mid-1970s recording. Artvedís spirited approach is more winning in both outer movements and I also found his refusal to linger in the slow movement advantageous.

Both the Crusell Divertimento (in four brief movements for oboe plus string quartet) and Bach Quartet (in two movements) last about ten minutes and are attractive works but they lack the profundity of Mozartís Quintet. Again the playing is graceful and stylish but Sarah Francis and the Allegri Quartet (on Hyperion Helios) make rather more of the Crusell (their couplings are Quintets by Kreutzer and Reicha), and they are also better recorded. Whilst the basic sound quality on this new disc is good, the oboe is balanced too closely and there is quite a lot of key noise, especially during the trills. The balance seems less troublesome in Mozartís Quintet than in the other works. The prevailing dynamic level is higher than usual and there is a need to adjust the volume control downwards for comfortable listening. The documentation is well up to the usual standard from this source i.e. excellent for a budget price disc.

Overall, this is a mixed bag. If an arrangement of K.406 for Oboe Quintet appeals, then look no further. There are a fair number of alternative versions of Mozartís Oboe Quartet available and, whilst this is an acceptable bargain version, the close balance seems to rule it out as a top choice.

Patrick C Waller


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