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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Oboe Concerto RV 455 [8:36]
Oboe Concerto RV 450 [10:04]
Oboe Concerto RV 535 [8:04]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Oboe Concerto TWV 51:1d [7:56]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Oboe Concerto BWV 1059 (arr.) [12:09]
Oboe Concerto BWV 49 / 169 (arr.) [19:48]
Vilém Veverka (oboe)
Dominik Wollenweber (oboe)
Barbara Maria Willi (harpsichord)
Ensemble 18+
rec. Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren, Prague, April 2015
SUPRAPHON SU4188-2 [67:02]

Vilém Veverka’s new disc combines six oboe concertos by the three greatest baroque composers: Three of Vivaldi’s, who wrote a total 17 (see Robert Hugill’s review), one of Telemann’s, who wrote a total of 8 (see Michael Cookson’s review), and two of Bach’s, who wrote none. The latter alchemy is not unusual in Bach—Veverka takes the very incomplete Concerto for Harpsichord in D minor, BWV 1059, stuffs it with gorgeous cantata movements, and voilŕ: Taxidermist-Bach (with all-Bach ingredients) that’s gorgeous enough not to question how it’s sewn together. Similarly the concerto that gets billing as BWV 49 / 169. Those are cantata-numbers, as the keen Bachian will observe, and again it needed a call to Dr. Frankenstein to turn two Köthen cantatas, specifically the sinfonia and another movement of BWV 169 (Gott soll allein mein Herze haben) and the last movement of BWV 49 (Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen), into a new concerto. There’s rhyme and reason to this: the former stems from what may or may not been a concerto for flute or oboe or sackbut or jazz-harmonica and the latter from an equally hypothetical and plausible but lost concerto that in turn stood model for the Keyboard Concerto, BWV 1053. As a Bach-lover and keen on the oboe (as was Bach himself), I’m all for that sort of thing.

Veverka, a former member of the Berlin Phil, has an assertive, pure tune … not so much charming-beautiful but cutting-beautiful … like the woman (or man) you would adore from afar, but not the type to cuddle up with. There’s a captivating, almost entrancing perfection to his playing, a solidity, that makes this disc eminently listenable. In displaying that, I find he also has a way of making everything on this disc sound the same … which might be thought of as elevating Vivaldi and Telemann or, less kindly, bulldozing Bach. That’s too unkind, actually. Vivaldi and Telemann, however prolific with concertos, are masters in this genre and treat the instrument most movingly. The virtuoso flash in Vivaldi doesn’t come as a surprise, but the extraordinarily dancing quality might. The first movement, in particular, of the Vivaldi Concerto RV455 is pure dance, as are his fast movements generally: lots of pep and pop and with an uplifting energy. Telemann infuses a human warmth and wistful, singing element into the concertos that is repeatedly fascinating. A plangent shift in harmony in the slow movement of the Telemann concerto (TWV51:d1) sounds like a glorious goose singing a funeral lament. Serenely touching, lest you dislike geese.

Nor is that above quip quite the gist I get from the disc. I am much rather struck by a notion how this sounds like a “standard-setting, go-to recording” of this repertoire, but in the way there were such first-choice recordings in the more homogenous record market of, say, the early 1990s. I’m reminded of Ludwig Güttler in trumpet concertos, although Veverka and Ensemble 18 naturally display to every degree the increased perfectionism in performance since then and to some degree the increased awareness of historic performance practice. The record makes me want to hear more of Veverka but it also makes me want to seek out original instrument recordings of each of these concertos. The 9-piece Ensemble 18 is relegated to backup music-making, but they do that with spunk and a sense for drama. Slightly souring is the English translation of the liner-notes; the better German translation is revealing.

Jens Laurson


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