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Oboe d’Amore Concertos
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in G, TWV G3 [17:45]
Concerto in A, TWV A2 [16:53]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in A, BWV 1055 [17:04]
Concerto in D, BWV 1053 [22:23]
Thomas Stacy (oboe d’amore)
Toronto Chamber Orchestra/Kevin Mallon
rec. St Anne’s Church, Toronto, August 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570735 [74:05]
Experience Classicsonline

This welcome disc provides a showcase for an instrument that many will recognise from its role in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The oboe d’amore is the mezzo of the alto family, pitched half-way between the oboe and the cor anglais.  Its sound is mellower than the traditional oboe but not as dark as the cor anglais and so its timbre is quite unique and worth exploring.  The soloist here, Thomas Stacy, is principal cor anglais player with the New York Philharmonic and is, according to the notes, “the most recorded English hornist in the world”.  He certainly does a good job with the material here.  Note, though: he plays on a modern instrument, as do the Toronto Chamber Orchestra, though they are very well versed in Baroque style and technique.

The two Telemann concertos are extant scores for the instrument. The Bach concertos are almost backwards reconstructions, having been realised from harpsichord concertos which, it is believed, started life as works for oboe d’amore from Bach’s time in Leipzig.  Sketchy as this context may be, both sets of works are well worth hearing, if not especially memorable.  The Telemanns have four movements each (slow-fast-slow-fast) while the Bach have three (fast-slow-fast).  The Telemanns are predominantly graceful and refined, particularly in their opening movements which sound like discarded opera arias, especially the G major Amabile sorrendo.  Stacy plays with consequent panache, relishing the opportunities to embellish in the slower third movements of each.  The A minor Largo of TWV A2 is particularly impressive here, as the soloist is predominantly accompanied by the continuo, producing a mysterious lilt above the darker bass-line. 

The Bach works automatically seem more substantial, with Bach’s characteristic busy arguments in the openings of both. The first movement of BWV 1055 has slight recollections of Brandenburg 3, and the soloist opens in the lowest register, allowing the piece to unfold naturally, and leading into the beautiful F sharp minor Larghetto that follows.  It is believed that BWV 1053 is broadly reworked from some of Bach’s cantatas and the booklet notes try helpfully to elucidate these.  It doesn’t really matter, though, because it’s very attractive music throughout, expertly played by musicians who clearly love this repertoire.  The sound is very good, though at times, especially in track 5, there is an intrusive clicking noise - the sound of the soloist’s keys, perhaps? - which Naxos should have edited out.  Don’t let this spoil your enjoyment of an entertaining, and none too soothing, collection.
Simon Thompson


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