Oboe Classics and its cousin Clarinet Classics always produce
entertaining, often novel programmes devoted to their relevant
instruments. Here the former presents a wide-ranging bill of
fare that takes in a re-clothed classical masterpiece and then
goes on to mine pieces that few will have encountered.
Mozart’s ‘Trio’ is a transcription more than an arrangement
‘after’ the Horn Quintet K407. The violin part now becomes the
oboe and the viola and cello parts are taken by the piano. This
sonic redistribution has been accomplished very adeptly and
in the spirit of the music. Especially pleasing is the songful
duet between the oboe and horn in the slow movement, not to
forget the energy and brio with which all three musicians play
the Rondo finale. There’s a sparkling soliloquy for Jeremy Polmear’s
oboe and evidence of Stephen Stirling’s eloquently sustained
legato phrasing, all underpinned by Richard Saxel’s unruffled
Adolphe Blanc, a Provencal-born composer who lived and worked
in Paris, was a theatre conductor but wrote almost wholly for
chamber forces. His Romance is a cleverly distributed affair
where the oboe’s feminine aria meets the horn’s suave lines,
and the ensuing flirtation, badinage and mini cadenzas provide
plenty of opportunities for characterisation. Heinrich van Herzogenberg,
a professor of composition in Berlin, and composer, was a contemporary
of Brahms, with whom he had an on-off relationship, and one
of whose pupils, Elisabet, he married – maybe to Brahms’s displeasure.
His 1889 Trio is in four crisp, well-appointed movements. The
first is a charming, lyrical Allegretto followed by a vigorous
Presto, and a warm slow movement. The highlight however is the
Ländler-like finale complete with bird calls and horn fillips
– all very outdoorsy and lusty.
The mysterious ‘H Molbe’ was actually Heinrich Freiherr von
Bach (1835-1915), a Viennese barrister and writer of songs and
much chamber music. He had a thing for the Orient and his Air
arabe is a slice of salon exotica, though a very agreeable
slice. Paul Basler brings us up to the date as his 1996 Vocalise-Waltz
is the most recent of the pieces to be performed in the disc.
He sets up nice rhythmic ideas here with plenty of cross-rhythms
involved, and injects a good cosmopolitan feel; it’s bright,
breezy and entertaining. Six years earlier Jean-Michel Damase
wrote his Trio. There are tango and dance elements, but also
firm evidence of a Poulenc-like clarity and precision. The Andante
is delightful and not too sombre, and there’s a flirty firefly
of a scherzo. All three players seem to relish the highly accomplished
writing, which is in the best French tradition.
The recorded sound at Wyastone Leys is first class and the ensemble
sounds well balanced. I enjoyed Polmear’s helpful notes. If
this combination of instruments appeals, and there’s no real
reason why it shouldn’t, you’ll find music that is engaging,
clever and often quietly memorable.