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Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

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Twentieth Century Oboe Sonatas
York BOWEN (1884-1961)
Sonata for Oboe & Piano op.85 [16:31]
Petr EBEN (1929-2007)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano, Op. 1 [13:52]
Henri DUTILLEUX (1916-2013)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano [10:42]
EugŤne BOZZA (1905-91)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano [12:55]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano FP 185 [14:13]
Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano in D major Op. 166 [10:36]
Alex Klein (oboe)
Phillip Bush (piano)
rec. 2018, Fay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio, WFMT, Illinois, USA
CEDILLE CDR90000186 [79:24]

The booklet opens with a personal note from the oboist Alex Klein, in which he states that he has long wished to produce a disc of oboe sonatas, combining some well-known with others less well known which he had a particular reason for performing. The result is a very pleasing recording which does indeed introduce music which is new - to me at least - and interesting.

The York Bowen sonata which opens the recital has become well-known over the last twenty years or so and first came to my attention with Melinda Maxwell’s fine recording for Dutton (CDLX 7129), which remains one of my favourite recordings. Maxwell really highlights the Romantic English impressionism in Bowen’s music, which Alex Klein’s smooth playing also does very well indeed. This is followed by the Sonata Op. 1, a neoclassical work by the Czech composer Petr Eben. There is another recording of this work on Toccata (TOCC0195), but Klein offers a more rewarding performance of this early work.

We then come to the first masterpiece, the Sonata for Oboe and Piano by Henri Dutilleux, a work I have come to know only recently through Nicholas Daniel’s excellent performance with Julius Drake in the Erato Centenary Edition (2564604798). I do find the Daniel recording a little more convincing, as he manages to shade the music a bit more. That is not to say that Klein‘s version isn’t any good; on the contrary, if I didn’t already know the Daniel, I would have been more than happy with Klein’s very nice - perhaps a little too nice? - performance.

We come then to EugŤne Bozza, a name new to me and, I imagine, to many others, also. His Sonata for Oboe and Piano is bright, with an air of post-Messiaen dynamics, while still very colourful and approachable, I will certainly be investigating his music further, although it tends to feature as short work on compilation albums, as no disc has been dedicated to him alone.

We come next to the best-known piece on this disc, Francis Poulenc’s truly magnificent, late Oboe Sonata. There is a reason why there are more recordings of this sonata than of the others featured on this disc combined; this is a masterpiece, and Klein brings out well the combination of Poulenc’s acerbic qualities, lyricism and warmth, resulting in a pleasing and welcome recording of a work I know well. I never tire Poulenc’s music and I will return frequently to this recording.

The final work on this disc might seem a little out of place, seeing that Saint-SaŽns was born as long ago as 1835, but his sonata was composed as late as 1921, Saint-SaŽns’ final year, and is therefore well within the timescale of this collection. I have always had an affection for Saint-SaŽns’ music and this very late work is no exception; I particularly like the central Sicilienne movement, where Klein picks out the dotted rhythm of this baroque-like dance wonderfully well, making a fitting conclusion.

The programme here is well-constructed and the personal elements of the choice of the pieces can be forgotten. Alex Klein and Phillip Bush make a perfect partnership, Klein’s well-figured oboe matching Bush’s pianism. The recorded sound is excellent, helping to bring out the best from both the musicians and the music, providing enjoyment from start to finish.

Stuart Sillitoe

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