Richard STRAUSS (1886-1949) Oboe Concerto (1945) [24:37]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997) L'Horloge de Flore (1959) [16:29]
Bohuslav MARTINU (1890-1959) Oboe Concerto (1955) [16:24]
John Anderson (oboe)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Simon Wright
rec. St. Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London, 25-27 June 1990
NIMBUS NI 5330 [57:30]
Here are three compact chef d’oeuvres of the oboe and orchestra repertoire made alluring by the presence of that rare charmer Francaix’s L'Horloge de Flore. First off we are introduced to the gamin delights of the playfully romantic Strauss Oboe Concerto. Strauss’s subtly beguiling and understated handling of the orchestra is announced at the start of the first two movements. That low key rhythmic velveteen ostinato sets the scene for the oboe’s winning ways. More than ever this makes connection, time after time, with Mozart. It is an idyllic enchantress of a work nicely put across. It is intriguing that Strauss wrote such a love-serenade and cassation in the same year that saw the composer’s beloved Germany in ruins and being picked over by the occupying Allied powers. It was written for John de Lancie, principal of the Philadelphia but was not premiered by him. Francaix’s L'Horloge de Flore is a delight in seven episodes. These are here tracked separately. The clock in question was the ‘flower clock’ devised by botanist Linnaeus who categorised various flowers by reference to the times of day at which they bloomed. It’s a work of warmly impressionistic delight with shades of bright sunshine, shadow and nocturnal contemplation. L'Horloge de Flore first crossed my path circa 1977 as the signature tune of a Saturday morning series on BBC Radio 3. The series which introduced short pieces and movements was hosted by the urbane Robin Ray. The version used as the signature tune was that by John de Lancie (RCA, LP). I have to say that Anderson has not wooed me away from the de Lancie version which seems simultaneously more alert and more poetic. You can hear it with other de Lancie classics on Boston Records 1045 alongside the Strauss concerto, the first of the Gymnopédies and the Ibert Symphonie concertante. The orchestra is the London Symphony Orchestra with André Previn. Also well thought of – though I have not heard it - is the CPO Francaix disc (CPO 999 779-2) with L'Horloge, the Quartet for English horn, violin, viola and cello, the Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano and the Quartet for two violins, viola and cello with Lajos Lencsés (oboe/English horn), the Parisii Quartet, Francaix Trio and the SWR Radio Symphony, Stuttgart/Uri Segal. The Nimbus disc ends with the enchanting Martinu Oboe Concerto. Although the oboe’s definition of notes played in quick rhythmic sequence is sometimes blunted and the strings can sound a shade nasal this is an engaging though not utterly compelling anthology.
Not as crisply recorded or performed as some but certainly engaging.