Oboists doubtless have available to them a range of music for
the oboe alone but I would suspect that most of the works were
written for the purposes of teaching or practice, and that few
of them have been recorded. Over the years I have collected quite
a lot of recorded music for the instrument – some 180 items according
to my database. Most are concertos and just two of them are for
oboe alone – Malcolm Arnold’s Fantasy Op.90 (on Helios CDH55072)
and C.P.E. Bach’s sonata which features here in a recording made
by Jozsef Kiss (on Naxos 8.550556). And the latter was originally
written for flute! I mention all this because I suspect we have
all been missing something – the oboe on its own, uncluttered
by orchestral instruments or a piano here sounds wonderful.
The first credit
for this aural feast should undoubtedly be to oboist Yeon-Hee
Kwak who positively explores what the instrument can do. She
has great technical assurance and produces a wide range of tone.
As well as being consistently delightful to the ear, these are
very musical performances in which she moves across the different
idioms with apparent ease. Currently second (!) oboe soloist
in the Munich Radio Orchestra, she is a young artist, originally
from South Korea, and I suspect we shall be hearing much more
The engineers also
deserve credit for the very natural sound picture. It is probably
impossible to make a satisfactory recording of the instrument
without some key clatter but this is minimal and not intrusive,
and the acoustic seems ideal.
The programme is
imaginatively constructed. Both the Bach works were originally
for flute and in A minor but have been transposed to G minor.
Interestingly, Kiss on the disc cited above plays the sonata
by Carl Philipp Emanuel in the original key. He is also excellent
but I prefer Ms. Kwak’s greater imagination and superior recording.
This work is in three movements starting with an adagio and
the lively finale is particularly memorable. The opening Partita
by Johann Sebastian is in four movements – Allemande,
Courante, Sarabande and Bourrée Anglaise.
The Sarabande is taken quite slowly and is simply magical.
In between the two
Bachs comes the music of a name unfamiliar to me previously
– Gilles Silvestrini. He is an oboist who hails from the Ardennes
and these six études, written between 1984 ands 1997 are his
best known work. The first few notes of this music establishes
its roots firmly in rural France, recalling the Songs of
the Auvergne. Each of the études takes its inspiration
from an impressionist painting (two of which were by Monet).
These are very demanding works requiring use of “permanent breathing”
(i.e. through the nose). Yet they are attractive and impressed
Finally, to the
tango-études, of which there are also six. This is late Piazzolla
dating from 1987 and is not perhaps in his most characteristic
vein. The second piece is the most substantial and notable;
marked Anxieux et rubato there are long lines and Ms.
Kwak certainly does not overdo either direction but emphasises
the rhapsodic elements. The fourth tango-etude is also meditative,
whilst the fifth is simply marked “Crochet = 120” and much anxiety
then creeps back into the final piece, as directed.
issue is well-documented with notes
by Janine Droese and a decent English
Lovers of the oboe
will surely enjoy this imaginative and beautifully played recital,
and it should also win new friends for the instrument. Like
Scotch, sometimes it’s better on its own.