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Humbert Lucarelli - The Lyrichord Years - Special Collector's Edition
CD 1: Benjamin Britten
CD 2: Oboe Sonatas by Hindemith, Poulenc, Saint-Säens & Lefèbvre
CD 3: Carl Nielsen
Humbert Lucarelli (oboe)
New Art String Trio (Britten), Thomas Hrynkiv (piano), Lark Woodwind Quintet (Nielsen)
rec. originally released 1968 (CD1), 1978 (CD2), 1966 (CD3). ADD
Detailed Track-List after review
LYRICHORD LYR6025 [3 CDs: 39.46 + 43.29 + 48.11]

This digitally re-mastered set restores the contents of three Lyrichord LPs made by Lucarelli and others in the 1960s and 1970s. The vinyl origin is evident from the playing times. Lucarelli’s work with Nick Fritsch brings this succulent-toned playing, first recorded half a century ago, back to ruddy life.
In a world thronged with the finest oboe players Lucarelli stands out for the full cherry-lipped affluence of his sound and for the seeming silence of his metallic key-work. The piercing qualities of the instrument are put across along with less obvious facets of its character including flute and saxophone overtones.
In the case of CD1 the mercilessly closely recorded Ovid Metamorphoses leave nothing to be desired. Each emerges with more sheer chlorophyll than we are used to hearing. The Suite for violin and piano played by Gerald Tarack and Thomas Grubb suffers from boxiness and from Tarack's dry thinness of tone. I am not sure where one ends and the other begins. That said, there's no mistaking how closely the players are in touch with this quirkily emotional music. I am still left hoping that the version of the Suite I heard at this last summer’s EMF (2013) from Rupert Marshall-Luck and Matthew Rickard will appear on CD perhaps as part of Em Marshall-Luck's EMR label; watch out for their impending Milford and Stanford violin concertos disc (EMR CD023). The final Waltz from the Suite is a splendidly sly confection - a pity it was not orchestrated; it would have made a fitting companion to Barber's devastatingly successful Souvenirs which works so much better in orchestral garb than for two pianos. The Op. 2 Phantasy Quartet is another early and quirky Britten work. It's full of splendidly odd angles and eccentricities with which to fall in love. It positively preens its feathers under Lucarelli's spell.
After an all-Britten disc comes a much later mixture of Oboe Sonatas. Ten years have passed since CD 1 but Lucarelli's strengths have not degraded and the recording quality has improved. The songful two movement Hindemith Sonata is touchingly and playfully communicated as is the even more vulnerably emotional three movement Poulenc. The Saint-Säens is also in three movements. Its joyous Mozartean tendencies are nicely cherished by Lucarelli and pianist Hrynkiv. We end with Lefèbvre's undulatingly melodic Two Pieces, the second of which appears to be a flighty portrait of some Parisian boulevardier or flâneur. It’s an overdose of irresistible charm. The preface appears to augur the flight of a certain bumblebee.
CD 3 takes us back to the single composer pattern, to the 1960s and to Nielsen. Hearing Lucarelli one wishes he had recorded the Nielsen Flute Concerto as did the uproarious Julius Baker with the NYPO and Bernstein. Lucarelli would have produced an equally doughty version perhaps with that other staunch Nielsen champion Eugene Ormandy. In any event all five players - that includes the Lark Woodwind Quartet - are well up to the character playing required. This effervescent version of the Woodwind Quintet is well worth hearing and has been underestimated solely on account of how difficult it has been to get hold of until now. The little Serenata in Vano is no less radiant. There are times when its subdued moods reminded me of Sibelius's Valse Triste. The two very early Fantasias for oboe and piano are modest yet full of green life - bubbling and reflective. The little Canto Serioso for French horn and piano is good to have but the boxy recording recalls the bad old studio days of the Britten Suite on CD1. Finally there are three lovely little vignettes from the incidental music to The Mother (1920). The oboe plays no part in a number of these pieces.
CD 3 also contains, though I have not accessed them, 18 pages of newly written pdf liner-notes, photos, links and an essay by Lucarelli.
Short playing time but the gorgeous-toned Lucarelli must not be overlooked when the recorded history of the oboe is written. This set forms an indispensable adjunct to Oboe Classics' distinguished achievements documenting the great oboe players of the last century.

Rob Barnett

Britten discography & review index
CD 1
Benjamin Britten
Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, Op. 49,
1 Pan [2:04]
2 Phaeton [1:26]
3 Niobe [2:11]
4 Bacchus [1:45]
5 Narcissus [2:43]
6 Arethusa [2:13]
Suite for Violin & Piano, Op. 6
Thomas Grubb, violin, Thomas Grubb, piano,
7 March [2:46]
8 Moto Perpetuo [2:50]
9 Lullaby [4:23]
10 Waltz [4:52]
11 Phantasy Quartet, Op. 2 [12:42]
The New Art String Trio
CD 2
Oboe Sonatas of Hindemith, Poulenc and Saint-Saëns
Thomas Hrynkiv, piano
Paul Hindemith Sonata for Oboe & Piano, 1938
1 Munter [4:15]
2 Sehr Langsam [8:25]
Francis Poulenc Sonata for Oboe & Piano, 1962
3 Elégie [4:41]
4 Scherzo [4:04]
5 Déploration [4:28]
Camille Saint-Saëns Oboe Sonata in D Major, Op. 166, 1921
6 Andantino [3:15]
7 Allegretto [5:35]
8 Molto Allegro [2:37]
Charles-Édouard Lefebvre Two Pieces for Oboe and Piano
9 Andante [3:40]
10 Allegro [2:34]
CD 3
Carl Nielsen
Woodwind Quintet Op. 43 (1922) for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon
John Wion, flute, Humbert Lucarelli, oboe, Arthur Bloom, clarinet, Alan Brown, bassoon, William Brown, French horn,
Robert Gardner, cello, Jeffrey Levine, bass, Scott Nickrenz, viola, Libby Croneberg-Brown, harp, piano
1 Allegro Ban Marcato [9:37]
2 Minuet [5:02]
3 Praeludium-tema variazioni [12:36]
4 Serenata in Vano [6:48]
John Wion, flute, Humbert Lucarelli, oboe, Arthur Bloom, clarinet, Alan Brown, bassoon, William Brown, French horn, Robert Gardner, cello,
Two Fantasies Op. 2, (1889) for oboe and piano
Humbert Lucarelli, oboe, Howard Lebon, piano
5 Fantasy One [3:43]
6 Fantasy Two [2:36]
7 Canto Serioso for French Horn and Piano [3:27]
William Brown, French horn Howard Lebon, piano
Incidental Music from “The Mother” Op. 41 (1920)
8 Faith and Hope are Playing [1:01]
John Wion, flute, Scott Nickrenz, viola
9 The Children Are Playing [1:32]
John Wion, flute,
10 The Fog is Lifting [1:55]
John Wion, flute, Libby Croneberg-Brown, harp