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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Trio in C major Op.87
Variations on Là ci darem la mano from Mozart’s Don Giovanni WoO.28
Anton WRANITZKY (1761-1820)

Trio in C major
Marc Schachman (oboe - principal oboe in the Beethoven), John Abberger (oboe - principal oboe in the Wranitzky) and Lani Spahr (cor anglais)
Recorded at St John’s Lutheran Church, Stamford, Connecticut, February 1999
NAXOS 8.554550 [59.20]


Pressures on Arts patronage are nothing new. The post French Revolutionary impact on courtly chamber orchestras was significant and draining and the central European private orchestras that had previously flourished went into something of a decline. Into this vacuum came a demand for more modest chamber ensembles and this disc illustrates the point, especially with regard to the – to us, perhaps– idiosyncratic combination of the oboe trio. We can’t date Beethoven’s example with absolute accuracy but the first recorded performance was in 1797 – and conjecturally it was written two years earlier.

Fluent, carefully crafted and elegant this is Beethoven in confident if sometimes rather conventional mood, with a bulky first movement with full complement of repeats. The Adagio is touching if somewhat aloof, but the sonorities of elevated status, and the Scherzo martial and jaunty. The fanfare like finale is resplendent with unison and single lines, and Beethoven’s convincing marshalling of his three wind instrumentalists almost without flaw. Coupled with his Trio is the Variations on Là ci darem la mano, wonderfully vivacious, pert and clever and, of rather more general interest, the Trio by his slightly older Moravian contemporary, Anton Wranitzky (born Vranický). The Bohemian-Viennese diaspora was well established, the Moravian equally well developed though somewhat less recognised today. Wranitzky, however, to accord him his German spelling, was long admired in Vienna, a friend of Beethoven, and with his older brother Paul (violinist, composer and conductor of the Esterházy Orchestra) a leading musical light in the city. Anton had studied with both Haydn and Mozart and was later to rise to the position of conductor of the Imperial Court Orchestra and the Theater an der Wien. As with Beethoven, professional association with leading chamber players led to works such as Wranitzky’s Trio. It’s a genial and optimistic four-movement work sporting a buoyant, sprightly first movement Allegro section (after the de rigueur Adagio introduction). Entertaining and imaginative it manages to separate lines with sufficient clarity and to inject enough harmonic drama to sustain interest. It’s essentially easy listening music and none the worse for it.

The three American oboists perform with expertise and flexibility – there are only a very few trivial moments when technical demands sound intrusive - and Naxos have brought out the warmth of their recording location, St John’s Lutheran Church in Stamford, Connecticut.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by John Leeman

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