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Lyrita New Recording
Quintet in F, Op.107, for Oboe and String Quartet (c.1821) [27:17]
Antal DORÁTI (1906-1988)
Notturno and Capriccio for Oboe and String Quartet (1926) [13:45]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Oboe Quartet, Op.61 (1957) [12:03]
Adam Halicki (oboe)
Camerata Quartet (Wlodzimierz Promiński, Andrzej Kordykiewicz (violins);
Piotr Reichert (viola); Roman Hoffman (cello))
rec. Reformed Church, Ins, Switzerland, 2001. DDD.
Booklet with notes in English, French, German and Polish.
DUX 0583 [53:05]
My first thought at seeing
the contents of this CD was that the two twentieth-century
works made strange bedfellows for Reicha. Despite the attempt
in the notes to link the three pieces as classical pops – not
a description which I’d readily apply to the Doráti Notturno – those
initial doubts about the wisdom of the coupling were never
wholly dispelled and led to my withholding an otherwise deserved ‘thumbs-up’.
Paradoxically, one of the strengths of these performances,
that the players respond well to the different styles of the
three composers, contributes to my reservations. I can see
the logic of such a programme for, say, the BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime
Concerts from the Wigmore Hall – indeed, the programme here
is just about the length of one of those concerts – but we
tend to expect a more unified programme on CD.
Reicha is usually regarded
as bridging the Classical and Romantic periods. The Quintet
which opens the recording is quite a substantial work in four
movements. Despite the late-ish date, it harks back more to
Mozart than forward to Berlioz. A pleasant piece, though hardly
memorable – the long first movement rather outstays its welcome;
his Wind Quintets are rightly better known – it has been recorded
by Sarah Francis and the Allegri Quartet on Hyperion Helios
CDH55015 – an excellent recording, at budget price, and more
logically coupled than on this Dux CD, with works by his contemporaries,
Kreutzer’s Grand Quintet and Crusell’s Divertimento,
Op.9. (Don’t be confused by the fact that Hyperion refer to
him as Antoine Reicha, the name which he adopted when
he settled in France. He also figures as Anton in some
The Dux performance is
attractive, stylish and lively; though the Hyperion is a little
brisker, there is little to choose between them. Halicki plays
with an attractive rounded tone and he is well supported if,
indeed, that is the right word for a piece in which the oboe
and the quartet are harmoniously interwoven.
Confusingly, the work
has also been billed as a Quintet for Clarinet and
Strings, in which form a free online score is
available. Ignore the date 1890 given on this website, presumably
the date of publication of the edition which has been scanned.
I don’t believe that the clarinet version has ever been recorded.
I had encountered Antal
Doráti as a conductor – his years as conductor of the Minneapolis
Symphony Orchestra and later of the BBC Symphony Orchestra
coincided with my growing realisation that there was more
to classical music than my frankly unsuccessful teenage attempts
to learn to play the piano; many of his recordings from that
period, on the Mercury label, are still prime recommendations.
It was his Minneapolis version of the 1812 Overture,
complete with real cannon and portentous commentary by Deems
Taylor, which introduced me to that work. His BBC concerts
were also my introduction to many pieces of classical music.
I recall his attempts to get English-speakers to pronounce
his name correctly, with the stress on the first syllable,
an attempt which he finally gave up as hopeless - what wonderful
linguists we Anglophones are! Doráti’s Decca recording of
the complete Haydn symphonies with the Philharmonia Hungarica
was a timely reminder that there was more to Haydn than the
London and Paris symphonies and still holds an honoured place
in the catalogue: I recently found myself preferring Doráti’s
versions of Symphonies 9-12 to a new Naxos
recording of these works.
I had never before encountered
Doráti as a composer, apart from a vague memory that two of
his symphonies were once recorded. Nor, indeed, had I realised
that he was something of a polymath. The website devoted
to his memory is well worth visiting. The Notturno and
Capriccio has not, to my knowledge, received any other
recording: if you want this piece, you will have to buy this
Dux recording. Like the Reicha, it is an attractive, though
hardly memorable piece. It owes a good deal to Debussy and
Ravel, but that is not meant to imply that it is derivative:
indeed, in its tougher, more angular moments Doráti’s style
is very much his own – “recognisably modern yet not afraid
of melody”, as he put it. The slow, mysterious introduction
to the Notturno might have come from Pelléas et
Melisande, albeit with a hint of an accent from Dorati’s
native Hungary. As the movement develops, the pensive mood
becomes more turbulent. The Capriccio, as its name
implies, is a playful movement, with more than a hint of the
English pastoral, and it receives a suitably lively performance
here. The oboe is even less of a soloist here than in the
Reicha – more fully integrated as a fifth instrument among
We certainly owe Dux a
debt of gratitude for recording this piece: it made me want
to hear more of Doráti’s music and it bears repeated hearings
better than the Reicha. For a work with no comparisons, I
have to take the interpretation and performance here very
much on trust, but I see no reason not to do so.
Arnold’s chamber music
is becoming more widely available, as witness the delightful
East Winds Naxos recording of his Wind Chamber Music to
which I responded as positively as did Michael
Cookson here on Musicweb (8.570294). The Oboe Quartet,
dedicated to Leon Goossens, is one of his most cheerful works.
The players here ably capture the sometimes angular jauntiness
of the opening Allegro non troppo and final Vivace
con brio, as well as the more pensive moments of the Allegretto middle
movement; this piece rounds off an attractive CD.
The recording throughout
is good, wide-ranging and with a nice sense of the placement
of the instruments, if a little close. The oboe is a little
too prominent at times in the Reicha.
The English translation
of the notes is doubtless accurate but it is strained and
highly unidiomatic. When will record companies realise that
they need native speakers to produce their translations? The
claim that “Queen Elisabeth in 1933 raised [Arnold] to the
nobility” is ludicrous on two counts: the date (at least the
notes in the other languages correct this) and the fact that
a knighthood does not amount to nobility.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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