Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in C, K314 [20:55]
Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello in F, K370 [14:52]
Divertimento for 2 Violins, Viola, Bass, Oboe and 2 Horns in D, K251 [26:33]
Concert Aria: Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! K418 [6:45]
Frank de Bruine (oboe)
Lenneke Ruiten (soprano)
Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Kenneth Montgomery
rec. January 2015. Das Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam (chamber works); October 2015. De Gereformeerde Kerk, Amsterdam (orchestral works)
GLOSSA GCD921123 [72:56]

Frans Brüggen founded the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century in 1981 and remained its director until his death in 2014. One of the pioneering bands of the period instrument movement, and largely untouched by the mellowing of approaches to the performance of early music, the Orchestra decided after Brüggen’s death to continue their schedule of live concerts and tours under a variety of guest conductors. For their first venture into the recording studio in the post-Brüggen era they invited Kenneth Montgomery to direct them. A surprising choice - after all Montgomery is better known for his work in the opera house and with more generously-proportioned ensembles such as the Ulster OrchestraI can report that on this disc the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century seems as aggressivelyperiodcentric as ever. No rich and vibrant string tone or warm, mellow winds; instead the clarity, almost dryness of attack and the delicate transparency of the textures are vividly laid bare in performances which are crystal clear, neat and sprightly. A couple of somewhat boomy Amsterdam churches provide an acoustic backdrop which does nothing take the sharp edge off the instrumental sound, and although it all seems a little heavygoing at the start of the Divertimento the sound has largely been well captured by the Glossa engineers.

The programme itself was devised by one of the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century’s playing members, oboist Frank de Bruine, and is built around Mozart’s relationship with the oboe. Clemens Romijn observes in the booklet notes that Mozart’s relationship with solo wind instruments was invariably built around personal friendships, and in the case of the oboe, it was his friendship with Friedrich Ramm, oboist with the Mannheimer Hofkapelle, which provided the impetus behind the creation of the Quartet. And while it was Ramm who made the Concerto his own - in Mozart’s phrase, it was Ramm’s “Battle Horse” - the Concerto was originally conceived to celebrate another friendship with the Salzburg-based oboist, Giuseppe Ferlendis.

The two remaining works on the programme, while featuring prominent parts for the oboe, celebrate more intimate relationships. The Divertimento was written for the name-day of Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, while Mozart inserted the aria Vorrei spiegarvi, Oh Dio! into an opera (Il curioso indiscreta) by Pasquale Anfossi for a performance starring the earliest love of his life, Aloysia Weber, for whom he clearly still held a very bright candle. All four works exude friendship and deep affection.

In the refined elegance of the Oboe Quartet and the substantial musical arguments of the Concerto, De Bruine leads the way with crisp, incisive playing. His sense of humour is nicely conveyed in some of the conversational gambits of the Divertimento, while his partnership with the gorgeous soprano voice of Lenneke Ruiten, whose extremely strong top register surely must be a match for Aloysia’s reputedly dazzling stratospheric vocal heights, is a model of sympathetic music making, always solidly supported by the orchestra and Montgomery’s unobtrusive direction.

It is good to know that the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century is sticking to its principles and turning out performances which maintain the precepts set out by its founding father. And if once or twice it seems just a trifle predictable in its unwillingness to impose any kind of interpretative personality on the playing content to deal in authentic instrumental sounds and precisely poised technical delivery, the cause of Mozart’s oboe works is well served here.

Marc Rochester

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