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Twentieth-century Oboe Concertos - Martinu, Etc / Klein

Release Date: 11/30/2004 
Label:  Cedille Records   Catalog #: 79   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Bohuslav MartinuPawel B. SydorMarco Aurélio Yano
Performer:  Alex KleinDaniela KosinovaMichael Keefe
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 22 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Oboist Alex Klein, formerly of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has an absolutely staggering technique, a sweet, pure tone, and seemingly endless breath control. His performances of these three challenging concertos, two of which were composed for him, are simply the last word in virtuosity as well as a true labor of love. After more than 80 minutes of music (on two discs for the price of one) I experienced no aural fatigue at all, and given the fact that the oboe is not necessarily one of the more alluring solo instruments, that's saying a lot. I must confess, there were times in the Yano concerto when I thought it would be nice if the oboe part had been left out, but that wasn't because of any
Read more deficiency in the playing. It's just that 37 minutes is a long time for any wind concerto, even one that gives plenty of opportunity for the orchestra to strut its stuff. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First up on the program is Martinu's exquisite Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, with its radiant textures (helped by a prominent piano part), lyrically syncopated melodies, and superb sense of form. Its scant 16 minutes radiate so much personality, charm, and freshness that it tends to dwarf the other two more imposing works on the program, fine as they are. Pawel Sydor's concerto Virtuti Militari has a lengthy program that speaks of the solo as a Polish hero representing virtue and democratic values fighting a bunch of political "maggots" symbolized by low strings and brass, while "the crowd" vacillates between them. I find the whole idea to be silly, but what matters is that the music is quite enjoyable and the opposition of the solo to the full ensemble is what concertos are all about anyway. The orchestration also is appealingly over-the-top in a juicy, Hollywood manner, and there's a gorgeous, lyrical tune for the oboe a few minutes into the work that sounds like the most beautiful thing ever written for the instrument (and Klein plays it that way). I could do without the "extended playing techniques", which as usual with wind instruments means making all kinds of nasty screeching sounds--exactly what most beginners on the instrument do their best to avoid. But Sydor's bows to the avant-garde never become annoying and always make sense in context.

Brazilian composer Marco Aurélio Yano died in 1991 at the age of 27 of brain cancer, leaving his Oboe Concerto incomplete regarding orchestration. Klein and colleagues of the composer finished the task very lovingly, and it's a very beautiful (if long) work. The first movement represents for Klein a narrative of the composer's final illness, and again I don't think that the programmatic suggestion helps. It's certainly a bitingly intense 10 minutes of music, with an enigmatic conclusion, and stylistically it lives in a different world from the rest of the work. The two ensuing movements are both based on Brazilian folk music and have extremely engaging tunes, very colorfully scored. The presence of the oboe does not in any way inhibit the exuberant use of a large orchestra, though as suggested at the beginning of this review, I could have done without that last cadenza in the finale. Never mind. I know that I will enjoy listening to this piece again, and that's ultimately what matters.

Paul Freeman and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra offer expert accompaniments and sound completely at home in all three works. I would have expected this of the Martinu, but it would be very difficult to point out any specific instance where these players put a foot wrong in the other pieces either. The engineering really makes the best possible case for the performances. Klein is naturally balanced against the ensemble, with plenty of air around his instrument so that the acoustic enhances the mellow warmth of his tone and never transmits an excessive amount of mechanical noise. Compared to Klein, Heinz Holliger often sounds like he's playing a kazoo. In short, this disc is a model of sensitive artistry, enterprising repertoire selection, and superlative engineering. It just doesn't get any better. [12/15/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Concerto for Oboe by Bohuslav Martinu
Performer:  Alex Klein (Oboe), Daniela Kosinova (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; Czech Republic 
Venue:  ICN Polyart, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 15 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Notes: Alex Klein performs only Martinu's first cadenza in the Finale.
ICN Polyart, Prague, Czech Republic (06/16/2003 - 06/20/2003) 
Concerto for Oboe "Virtuti Militari" by Pawel B. Sydor
Performer:  Alex Klein (Oboe)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Venue:  ICN Polyart, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 27 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: ICN Polyart, Prague, Czech Republic (06/16/2003 - 06/20/2003)
Composition written: USA (1991 - 1992). 
Concerto for Oboe by Marco Aurélio Yano
Performer:  Michael Keefe (Synthesizer), Alex Klein (Oboe)
Conductor:  Paul Freeman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czech National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Sâo Paulo, Brazil 
Venue:  ICN Polyart, Prague, Czech Republic 
Length: 37 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Notes: Arranger: Alex Klein.
ICN Polyart, Prague, Czech Republic (06/16/2003 - 06/20/2003)
Composition written: Sâo Paulo, Brazil (1988 - 1991). 

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