Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
The Girl with the Flaxen Hair [2:40]
Clair de Lune [5:13]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Pavane, Op. 50 [5:54]
Sicilienne, Op. 54 [3:48]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
L’Horloge de Flore [17:07]
Gotthard ODERMATT (b. 1974)
Été, Op. 18 [11:02]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pavane pour une infant défunte [5:55]
Vincent d’INDY (1851-1931)
Fantaisie sur des themes populaires français [14:54]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Gymnopédie No. 1 [3:37]
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)
À Chloris [4:15]
Albrecht Mayer (oboe, oboe d’amore, cor anglais)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Mathias Mönius
rec. St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, April
DECCA 4782564 [74:25]
Albrecht Mayer has been making something of a name for himself
with, for want of a better phrase, concept albums. First came
then came Bach.
For me his Bach album was pleasing to the ear if a little random
in its content. This time his unifying concept is at its loosest.
The music on offer has barely anything to do with Paris: it’s
just that it features (mostly) French composers. But if the
music is good then who really cares about the theme, and here
the music and the playing is very good indeed.
Mayer’s vast experience, both as soloist and as principal
oboe of the Berlin Philharmonic, means that his playing is among
the most silky and alluring of any instrumentalist you will
hear today. Indeed, it is the sheer attractiveness of his playing
that will bring me back to this disc. Most of the pieces he
plays are special arrangements, mostly by Chris Hazell, and
nearly all are transposed into a key that will suit the range
of his instrument better. These two things have the effect of
casting often familiar works into a new light. Fauré’s
Pavane, for example, initially jars on the ear in its
higher key but if it works one gets used to it, and it becomes
a lovely dialogue due to the prominent role for bassoon as well
as the oboe. Meanwhile the arrangement of Ravel’s Pavane
pour une infant défunte works by underplaying the
orchestral winds so that the oboe can shine more prominently.
Likewise, Clair de Lune is all the more evanescent, though
perhaps the orchestra is too obvious a presence here.
The less familiar works will attract some listeners, though
the rewards are mixed. Françaix’s Floral Clock
depicts a different plant for each hour of the day and night.
The Moonflower (track 8) has a pleasant, flowing melody, but
otherwise I didn’t think there was much to the suite.
D’Indy’s Fantaisie sounds languid, almost
oriental at time, though it has livelier, folk-influenced moments.
Odermatt’s Été was written for Mayer
and sounds like it might have been composed a century ago with
its shimmering, impressionistic textures: listen out for its
lovely extended melody about four minutes in, flowing and shapely.
Satie’s Gymnopédie flows alluringly with
the distinctive sound of the cor anglais darkening the texture,
but for me the loveliest item was saved to last as, in Hahn’s
À Chloris,the cor anglais floats alluringly
over an exquisite orchestral texture. Here, as throughout the
disc, Mayer displays a miraculous seamlessness to his playing
and his love for and total mastery of the long legato line is
evident to anyone. Support from the Academy and the direction
of Mathias Mönius are dependable without stealing the soloist’s
limelight. Recorded sound is excellent too. The only duff note
comes with the booklet notes, which are dreadful! Fans of the
oboe will love this disc: aspects of it may be forgettable but
it collects a sequence of beautiful music which should give
pleasure to most.