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Russian Oboe Concertos
Valery KIKTA (b. 1941)

Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra No 1, ‘From Belgograd’ [17.00]
Andrey RUBTSOV (b. 1982)
Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra [18.41]
Valery KIKTA (b. 1941)
Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra No 3 [19.06]
Andrey ESHPAI (1925-2015)
Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra [17.34]
Maria Sournatcheva (oboe)
Göttinger Symphony Orchestra/Christoph-Mathias Mueller
rec. April 6-8, October, 7-8, 2015

This is a delightful, tuneful collection which will give much pleasure, with works which could happily add to the repertoire of concertos heard in our concert halls. The composers are not well-known abroad, but this disc provides both an interesting introduction and an invitation to explore their work further.

Andrey Eshpai’s single movement concerto, from 1982, which closes the programme, shows something of the influence of both Myaskovsky and Khachaturian, while having a distinct voice of its own. The use of folk rhythms and melodies, many from the Mari people, combines with a few elements of jazz music. Less serious than the nine symphonies, it is quite a joyful work, and instantly appealing. One can hear why it was awarded the Lenin prize.

The youngest composer represented here is Andrey Rubtsov who studied both in Moscow and the Royal College of Music. He is also an oboist – he performs on a 2009 Decca recording of the Bach Concerto for Violin and Oboe with Julia Fischer and the Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields. The concerto here is attractive, virtuosic and written with a clear sense of the capabilities of the oboe and its range. The style is best described as neo-classical with some interesting contrast within the compass of a single movement. The idiom is one that Malcolm Arnold might have recognised.

For me, the highlights were the two concertos by Kikta. The first is based on folk tunes from southern Russia. There are interesting effects in the percussion and the oboe part is assured and beautiful.

The Third concerto is a case of sheer delight. The long lines of the second movement with an apparently endless melody reminded me of Bach’s way with a woodwind theme. This is perfect late night listening.

Performances are outstanding. Maria Sournatcheva has total technical assurance, poise and elegance, as well as deep feeling for the music. Orchestral performance is sympathetic, and the SACD recording wonderfully clear. No details are given of the venue, which is a pity, as it the acoustic is clearly very fine.

This is a CD to explore and enjoy again and again.

Michael Wilkinson



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