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Oboe Concertos
Hugo SCHUNCKE (1823-1909)

Concerto for oboe and orchestra in A minor (1845) [24.23]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)

Fantasy Pieces for oboe and string orchestra Op.2 [4.07 plus 2.40]
Johann Wenzelaus KALLIWODA (1801-1866)

Morceau de Salon Op.28 [10.01]
Josef Guy ROPARTZ (1864-1955)

Pastorale and Dances for oboe and orchestra [10.06]
Lajos Lencses (oboe)
Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, SWR/Bernhard Güller
Recorded Stuttgart, SWR, Funkstudio, March 2001 and February 2002
CAPRICCIO 67 134 [51.48]

 

To say a disc is undemanding but enjoyable is often a critic’s shorthand indication of a tepid hour’s worth of listening – but in this case it’s nothing less than the truth. There is a degree of variety here – from the early Romanticism of Schuncke to the bucolic fantasy of Ropartz.

Schuncke was the brother of the more famous Ludwig, a friend of Schumann whose journalism gave him widespread renown. Hugo seems to have limited his career to Stuttgart and remains little known. The Oboe Concerto is a sturdy construct from the early high watermark of Romanticism. It’s cast in three movements full of cantabile and quasi-vocalised warmth and with adrenalin pumping coloratura opportunities for the soloist, especially in the long-ish opening movement. The central slow movement has an easy lyrical cast, nothing terribly distinctive but certainly well crafted. I don’t think it’s uncharitable to note that it could just as easily be a violin concerto – Schuncke was actually a fiddle player and pianist – and there’s not much that makes it unavoidably a concerto for oboe other than perhaps a degree of novelty. But the bolero finale is certainly a surprise, well nuanced, though not one that comes close to solving the Romantic finale dilemma; it’s overlong and not climactic enough. Still, it’s a work worth hearing once in a while.

Nielsen’s early Fantasy Pieces are here played in the version for oboe and string orchestra and work well though the first is a rather diffuse effort. The second, a Humoresque, is much more genially capricious – light music at its finest. Kolliwoda was a Bohemian born composer and conductor admired by Schumann. He spent much of his working life in Karlsruhe and Donaueschingen and seems to have excelled in rhythmic verve if his Concert piece is anything to go by - full of trills and roulades and quasi-operatic excess it really tests the soloist’s agility and control, adding little Viennese dances for the accompanying string orchestra for full measure.

Finally we move into the twentieth century with Ropartz, something of an interloper in this company, it must be said. From folk-like cantilena and burnished, auburn strings and winds to a perky, adroitly orchestrated dance this is a delicious ten-minute piece; aerial and athletic. Overwhelmingly warm and lyric it also manages the tricky feat of coalescing the material satisfactorily.

Throughout the orchestra and soloist, the mercurial and agile Lajos Lencses play with finesse and authority – and no little charm. So undemanding it is – but enjoyable, certainly.

Jonathan Woolf



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