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Modern Fairy Tales
Peter SCHICKELE (b. 1935)
Gardens for Oboe and Piano (1968) [5:52]
Hendrik ANDRIESSEN (1892-1981)
Ballade (1952) [5:52]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Three Folk Songs from the Csík District (1907) [4:14]
Stanislas VERROUST (1814 – 1863)
Solo de concert No. 3 in F Major, Op. 76 (1858) [8:02]
Four Personalities (2007) [11:16]
Marilyn ZUPNIK
Impressions for Oboe Solo (2006) [8:50]
Marcia KRAUS
Three Fairy Tales (1997) [23:13]
Courtney Miller (oboe)
Ayako Yoda (piano)
Deborah Selig (soprano)
Shiela Kibbe (piano)
rec. May 2014, Futura Productions, Roslindale, Massachusetts, USA
CENTAUR CRC3421 [67:21]

This is an interesting album with little-known pieces featuring the oboe. I have only heard Peter Schickele’s Gardens (1968) twice before in my life, on a radio broadcast twenty years ago and on Joseph Robinson’s recital disc. It is an evocative work with three short movements titled Morning, Noon and Night. Both Hendrik Andriessen’s Ballade, composed in 1952, and Béla Bartók’s Three Folk Songs from the Csík District in an arrangement by Hungarian oboist Tibor Szezler, have been recorded by Dutch oboist Hans de Vries.

Stanislas Verroust was a virtuoso oboist and professor of oboe at the Paris Conservatoire. In the middle of the 19th century, professors of the instrumental classes at the Paris Conservatoire were responsible for writing the exam pieces - solos de concours. This Solo de Concert in F Major Op. 76 was one such work for the 1858 concours. Verroust, who played with the Paris Opera Orchestra, crafted this Solo in an operatic style, with the oboe being the equivalent of the operatic diva.

The two works next are both written by American oboists. Alyssa Morris’s Four Personalities was written in 2007. The four movements are Yellow, White, Blue and Red. Yellow uses jazz and blue idioms. White is more easy-going in character, while Blue has a wide dynamic range. Red is marked “steady and relentless” and its high writing for the oboe provides a dramatic finish.

Marilyn Zupnik played oboe with the Minnesota Orchestra from 1980 to 2004. She wrote Impressions for solo oboe in 2006. As is the case with the Four Personalities, this composition is well-suited to oboe’s character and explores the instrument’s different characters as well as the entire range.

Marcia Hansen Kraus is a cellist, pianist and composer from Cleveland, Ohio. Her Three Fairy Tales for soprano, oboe and piano dates from 1997. Based on stories by Hans Christian Andersen, the three movements are titled The Emperor and the Nightingale, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling.

American oboist Courtney Miller’s playing is typical of the American school of oboe playing, with a smooth, refined tone, which is what Alyssa Morris, Marilyn Zupnik and probably Peter Schickele and Marcia Kraus had in mind when they wrote their works. There is not enough personality in the rendition of Bartók’s Folk Songs – the playing is too civilized for these middle European folk songs. Miller’s technique is mostly solid, but some of the more tricky intervals, including F-D and A#-B, are not played very smoothly. I find the soprano Deborah Selig’s vibrato too pronounced in Three Fairy Tales, particularly given Courtney Miller does not use as much vibrato as most European oboists.

The booklet is in English only and does not contain the sung texts for the Three Fairy Tales.

Anyone interested in exploring the oboe repertoire should get this album for the American works.

Wai Kit Leung



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