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Music for Oboe and Strings
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Oboe Quartet in F, K. 370 [17:56]
Oboe Quintet in c minor K. 406 (K. 388) [22:20]
Bernhard Henrik CRUSELL (1775-1838)

Divertimento in C, op. 9 [9:55]
Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782)

Oboe Quartet in B flat, B 60 [10:22]
Max Artved, oboe
Elise Båtnes, violin
Tue Lautrup, violin/viola
Dimitri Golovanov, viola
Lars Holm Johansen, cello
rec. Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen, 11-14 January 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557361 [56:52]


In 1777, Mozart set out with his mother on a tour to seek his musical fortune outside of the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg. He was soon to find great success in Mannheim, a city that boasted one of Europeís most famous orchestras. Success, that is, in popularity and collegial respect, but alas, no appointment to the court was in store. Nonetheless, while there he made the acquaintance of one Friedrich Ramm, a gifted oboist. Further travels and a great misfortune in the death of his mother led him to make a round-about way back to Salzburg, a city he by now detested.

It was upon his return there in 1781 that he composed his F major quartet for his friend Ramm. It is a delightfully elegant piece, chock-full of the infectious melodies for which Mozart is known and loved. The later work for oboe and strings (the Quintet K. 406) is a reworking of his serenade for wind instruments K. 388, and was born out of the precariously difficult last decade of the composerís life, a time that saw him almost constantly struggling to keep his financial head above the waves.

Bernhard Crusell was a Finnish-born clarinetist and composer. Educated in Stockholm, he was later to make that city a major base for his career as a soloist. His charming divertimento of 1822 is a little gem of a piece, full of formal craft and winsome tunes. One is particularly and pleasantly surprised by the unexpected shifts in mode and harmony, a clever series of devices that keep the listener tuned in.

Johann Christian Bach, the youngest of Sebastianís sons, and eleventh of his thirteen (out of a total of twenty) surviving children, was born in Leipzig and remained there assisting his father until the elderís death in 1750. From there he joined his brother (Carl Philip Emmanuel) in Potsdam, later moving to Italy where he converted to Catholicism and became a cathedral organist in Milan. He later moved to London, where, like Handel, he found considerable success as a composer of Italian opera, meeting the young Mozart, and living rather well until fashion turned against the art form in which he had made his fortunes, causing him considerable struggles in his later years. His elegant and charming Oboe Quartet from 1776 is typical of the composerís fondness for varied combinations of instruments, and is in melody, harmony and style a harbinger of the classical mindset that would make the careers of Haydn, Mozart and the young Beethoven.

Max Artved is clearly the star of this program, and his warm and fluid oboe tone is most pleasing. His control of the instrument, flawless intonation and finely shaped phrasing is a delight for the ear. Lest I seem dismissive of his colleagues, I would hasten to add that this is an ensemble of first-rate professionals. It is not clear if these musicians play together regularly, but they do all have membership in various Danish orchestras in common. The Danes must be the proud home of some excellent conservatories, if the refined playing of this group is any indication.

This recital is one of those double plusses, which allow for careful and involved listening if desired, and some splendid ambient music if the occasion calls for such. The music itself is tuneful and energetic, elegant and engaging, and should be appealing to all but the most curmudgeonly of listeners. Similar enough in style to flow together without too much of a jar, there is plenty of subtle drama to keep your ears attuned as well.

This is a most pleasant and recommendable disc, one that would find pride of place in any library. Superb sound quality, and Keith Andersonís typically fine program notes are the icing that secures this recital a firm spot in the winnerís column.

Kevin Sutton

see also review by Peter Lawson

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