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Down a River of Time
Georg Philip TELEMANN (1681-1767) Concerto in D minor [9.44]
Francois Joseph GARNIER (1755–1825) Concerto for Oboe and Strings [8.11]
Giuseppe FERLENDIS (1785–1810) Concerto no. 1 in F major [13.31]
Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI (1876–1948)
(1932) [19.36]
Eric EWAZEN (b. 1954)
Down a River of Time
(1999) [24.57]
Andrea Gullickson (oboe)
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra/Lucia Matos
rec. July 2005, Czech Radio Studio One, Prague.
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With a title like Down a River of Time this disc could all too easily sound like one of those light classical mood complications. In fact, it is far from this, being an interesting selection of oboe concertos ranging from the baroque to contemporary.

American oboist Andrea Gullickson maintains a busy concert schedule in parallel with being Professor of Music at Butler University. It is Dr. Gullickson's research into 18th century music for oboe which informs this recital.

Gullickson opens with Telemann's Concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and continuo, written in the slightly old fashioned four-movement (slow, fast, slow, fast) format. Her playing is beautifully mellifluous, with a rich dark tone. The effortless playing shows off Telemann's lovely, free-flowing lyrical expression.

She is finely accompanied by Brazilian-born conductor Lucia Matos and the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. In the opening movement I did wonder whether the strings were a little over-opulent, this is definitely not a period-aware performance. But on a mixed recital like this, we can't really expect too much. The orchestra turn in a nicely crisp performance in the faster movements and I warmed to their playing, thanks to the player’s lovely timbre and the musicality of the performance.

Gullickson follows the Telemann with a late 18th century French piece, written by François Joseph Garnier, an oboist in the Opera orchestra. With its elegant line and musical charm, it straddles the classical and romantic periods, with beauty of vocal line being more important than virtuosity. Gullickson plays the work with elegance and whilst it may not be a forgotten masterpiece, it reeks of 18th century Parisian charm. The solo line is influenced by vocal writing, especially in the third and fourth movements, recitative and aria.

Mozart wrote his oboe concerto for Giuseppe Ferlendis, a celebrated virtuoso of the time. Ferlendis's Concerto no. 1 in F major was rediscovered in 1919 and initially thought to be by Mozart. It is very Mozartian in cast, attractive and well constructed. The orchestral accompaniment is ideal, crisp and lithe. Gullickson clearly relished the sparkling final movement with its opportunity for display.

The next concerto is another find, Wolf-Ferrari's Idillio-Concertino. Wolf-Ferrari wrote it in 1932 after some 25 years devoted mainly to opera. It is difficult to place the style, which is rather old-fashioned for its time. It mixes hints of neo-classicism with elements of Tchaikovsky's string writing and only occasional hints of 20th century music. The five movements are very varied, ranging from the wistful scherzo, the long-breathed adagio to the perky rondo with a rather sudden ending. As you might expect from an opera composer, there are times when you feel there is some sort of dramatic dialogue going on between soloist and orchestra.

The disc finished with the concerto by Eric Ewazen, which give the disc its name. Ewazen studied at the Eastman School of Music and at Tanglewood. He is a member of the Juilliard faculty. Down a River of Time was written in 1999, commissioned by oboist Linda Strommen as a memorial to her father. The title, taken from an essay by Richard Feagler, relates to the poignant stories of long gone relatives and friends. It is a charming work, melodic and well constructed. Like the Wolf-Ferrari, it brings the aura of a slightly previous age; in this case Ewazen's work strong evokes, for me, Ralph Vaughan Williams' oboe concerto.

The result is a well put together recital which showcases the lovely playing of Andrea Gullickson. Lucia Matos and the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra provide a fine, vibrant sound and make good accompanists. With its out of the way repertoire and musical performances, this is a highly recommendable disc. 

Robert Hugill

see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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