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Oboe Divas!
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891) The Flower Duet from “Lakmé” [3:52]; Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Duo from “Lucia di Lammermoor” (arr. Henri Brod) [9:28]; Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” WoO28 [9:19]; Extracts from “Fidelio” arr. Wenzl Sedlak [18:05]; George Frederick HANDEL (1685-1759) Duetto “Bramo haver mille vite” from “Ariodante” [4:21]; Richard BLACKFORD (b.1954)Portrait of Hans Sachs” on themes from Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” [10:31]; Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Duo Brilliant from “William Tell” arr. Jules Demersseman [9:45]; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Three Duets arr. Gunther Joppig [6:50]; Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Opening scene from “Eugene Onegin” arr. Daniel Pailthorpe [4:01]
Emily Pailthorpe, Elaine Douvas (oboe); Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson (flute); Anthony McGill, Jessica Phillips (clarinet); Andrea de Flammineis, Daniel Shelly, Douglas Brown (bassoon); Brad Gemeinhardt, Julie Landsman, Michelle Reed Baker (horn); Timothy Cobb (bass); Mark Gould (conductor); Elizabeth Martyn, Julian Milford, James Martin (piano)
rec. March-November 2007, Juilliard School recording studio, New York, and The Music Room, Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex

Experience Classicsonline

Players of all kinds of orchestral - and non-orchestral - instruments will be aware of the many arrangements that exist of operatic and other music for their instrument. These may be for a variety of purposes – domestic use, teaching, recitals, chamber music and so on. Only rarely are they allowed out in public. It was an excellent idea for Elaine Douvas, Principal Oboe of the Metropolitan Opera, and Emily Pailthorpe, an American oboist now resident in England, to put together this very varied programme which includes brief arrangements of Mozart for the two soloists on their own, nineteenth century virtuoso display pieces with other wind instruments, and more elaborate chamber pieces as well as a few relatively respectful arrangements for two oboes and piano.
The highlights for me were the pieces where the respect was most muted. The arrangements of music from “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “William Tell”, both described as Duos but actually trios respectively for oboe, bassoon and piano and flute, oboe and piano, are tremendous fun. The arrangers lose no opportunities for the soloists to exhibit their virtuosity, at the same time as including much of the best known music from those operas. Maybe the result takes the music far from its original character but the result is immensely exhilarating for the listener. The Fidelio arrangements are examples of the many such for wind octets – here with a bass added – of popular operas of the time. They are well played even if inevitably much is lost from the original opera. Somewhat disappointingly even more is lost in the early set of Beethoven Variations. These were written for two oboes and cor anglais, but here a bassoon is substituted for the cor anglais. Although certainly very well played this does reduce much of the pungency and special character of the music.
The three arrangements for two oboes and piano – Delibes, Handel and Tchaikovsky – are pleasant enough but no special revelations result from the arrangements and for the most part they are simply attractive reminders of the originals. Richard Blackford’s “Portrait of Hans Sachs” for wind quintet is a much more ambitious piece, knitting together themes and sections from the opera in a cunning and generally convincing way to present a picture of Sachs. It was written to celebrate Bernard Levin’s 60th birthday in 1989, and is worth hearing as a commentary on the original.
All the items are well recorded and have lively playing, especially from the two main protagonists whose delightful but slightly varied tones are a pleasure in themselves. Cunning ordering ensures variety of texture and character throughout, and lengthy and interesting notes are provided. Clearly this will appeal especially to enthusiasts of the opera or the oboe, but it deserves a much wider circulation.

John Sheppard


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