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The Light Wraps You: New Music for Oboe
Rodney ROGERS (b. 1953)
Lessons of the Sky
for oboe and piano (1985) [8:47]
Bill DOUGLAS (b. 1942)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano (2004) [10:53]
James MACMILLAN (b. 1959)
for Three Oboes (1991) [6:23]
Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano (2006) [14:12]
Andrea CLEARFIELD (b. 1960)
Three Songs
for Oboe and Double Bass (after poems by Pablo Neruda) [6:44]
Fulvio CALDINI (b. 1959)
Etude de réveil
op 7/B for oboe and Clarinet [3:30]
Phillip BIMSTEIN (b. 1947)
Cats in the Kitchen
for Flute and Oboe plus the Kitchen “Sync” (2007) [13:11]
Michelle Fiala (oboe)
Donald Speer (piano); Bill Douglas (piano); Joseph Salvalaggio; Martin Schuring (oboes); Frank Morelli (bassoon); Karl Olsen (double-bass); John Cipolla (clarinet); Heidi Pintner (flute)
rec. May-June 2007, Recital Hall, Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS1217 [63:41]
Experience Classicsonline

This disc, Michelle Fiala’s debut CD, contains an interesting programme of new music for oboe, with all the pieces heard here in their first commercial recordings.
The moto perpetuo opening of Rodney Roger’s Lessons of the Sky immediately commands attention, with Fiala’s beautifully phrased oboe heard over a toccata-like piano accompaniment. The oboe sound is rich and warm, and the melancholy middle section takes on a mournful tone. This is an enjoyable effort which works as an excellent show-piece for the oboe, with both lyrical and rhythmical sections. Fiala’s expressive oboe playing is supported well by pianist Donald Speer.
The first of two works on the disc by Bill Douglas, the Sonata for Oboe and Piano, is an eleven minute piece in three movements. The opening features a unison melody between piano - played here by the composer - over a gentle chordal accompaniment. The heavy syncopation demonstrates the influence of popular and latin music rhythms, and the structure is heavily influenced by jazz. The central movement brings to mind the music of Vaughan Williams, through the influence of British folk-song. There is a strong sense of British pastoral music meeting the gentle influence of American jazz, and it works well. The final movement is an upbeat dance-like piece, which has a strong pulse and is performed with energy.
Scottish composer James MacMillan’s Intercession for three oboes is performed here with style. At times, one could be forgiven for imagining that one player had multi-tracked the whole thing; the intonation is excellent and the match of tone quality is impressive. This is an astonishing piece of music, which makes imaginative use of the three instruments to powerful effect. These players - Michelle Fiala is joined here by Joseph Salvalaggio and Martin Schuring - make it seem easy. For me, the disc is worth buying for this track alone.
The second Bill Douglas piece, Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano seems almost superficial in comparison, but the contrast works well and the playing is light and jazzy. Within seconds, the listener is transported to a hotel lounge. It is a real delight to hear jazz played on oboe and bassoon in such a convincing way. The bassoon writing is particularly appealing, and it is pleasing to see new additions to the instrument’s repertoire such as this. This is a highly enjoyable piece which is well performed throughout. I imagine it would also be rewarding to perform, and I would urge players to seek it out.
Andrea Clearfield uses the unusual combination of oboe and double bass in a work composed for a married couple, the bassist and oboist from the Philadelphia Orchestra, Robert Kesselman and Jennifer Kuhns. The pieces take their inspiration from Pablo Neruda poems, and the music has sensuality and charm. Once again, the playing is excellent, and the musical ideas are communicated well.
Etude de réveil begins with a dialogue between oboe and clarinet, in a pointillistic style where the colours of the individual instruments help to shape the melodic line. The composer Fulvio Caldini explains his respect for Steve Reich in the programme notes, and the effect can be clearly heard as the music gains in complexity with the repetition of gradually evolving melodic lines. The effect is successful, and interest is maintained and developed throughout this brief work.
The final work on the disc is the curiously unusual Cats in the Kitchen by Phillip Bimstein. The accompaniment is said to include “meows, purrs, cracked eggs, sliced onions”, and a vast array of other bizarre things. There is undeniably an element of comedic fun about this work, which, despite the amusement, is created with imagination and an excellence in composition. The rhythms are catchy and the melody lines develop with a sense of inevitability. This is unlike anything I have ever heard before – and I love it. 
Any performer who makes the effort to disseminate new repertoire such as Michelle Fiala has done here is to be applauded. This is a wonderful collection of recent works, many of which will undoubtedly be new to most listeners. The standard of playing is consistently high, and the music is enjoyable and well written. Well worth listening to.
Carla Rees


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