Music for Oboe, Horn and Piano
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Trio, after Quintet K407 (1782) [15:54]
Adolphe BLANC (1828-1885)
Romance Op.43b (c.1862) [4:24]
Heinrich von HERZOGENBERG (1843-1900)
Trio Op.61 (1889) [21:36]
H MOLBE (Heinrich von BACH) (1835-1915)
Air arabe Op.77 [5:07]
Paul BASLER (b.1963)
Vocalise-Waltz (1996) [6:20]
Jean-Michel DAMASE (b.1928)
Trio (1990) [15:21]
Jeremy Polmear (oboe); Stephen Stirling (horn); Richard Saxel (piano)
rec. July 2010, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth
OBOE CLASSICS CC2022 [68:49]

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 pianism.

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.

Jonathan Woolf

Engaging, clever and often quietly memorable.