ALBINONI Oboe Concertos from opp. 7 and 9 • Thomas Indermühle, Jacques Tys (ob); Claudio Brizi (cond); I Solisti di Perugia • CAMERATA CMCD-20097-8 (2 CDs: 125:43)
Back when I started seriously collecting (LPs in those days) I didn’t buy oboe records. They wereRead more few and far between then for sure, but it was the “Great Composers” syndrome that held me back. Those mostly 19th-century titans did not compose for oboists, and the obscurities who did—Marcello, Cimarosa, Vivaldi, Albinoni, et al.—seemed less deserving of my time and fortune. Well, I’ve learned a few things since then: that Marcello’s concerto is a true gem (Bach thought so, too); that Cimarosa didn’t actually write his; that Vivaldi really was one of the greats; and that time spent with Albinoni—“inventor” of the oboe concerto—can be time well spent (though I’ll admit that too much uninterrupted time with Albinoni can be daunting).
The record companies have been kind to Albinoni. I’ve accumulated five sets of the complete solo and duo concertos, plus two other discs of the solo concertos only, and all of them serve the music well. And, of course, there are countless recordings of individual concertos.
The ever-dependable Thomas Indermühle, joined in the duo concertos by Jacques Tys, plays with his usual impeccable technique, a warm and beautiful tone, and exquisite sensitivity, and with lively support from I Solisti di Perugia. I’m inclined to place this new version (recorded in 2006) at or near the top of the list, while noting, however, that the spread from top to bottom is pretty narrow.
Albinoni’s published oboe concertos are contained in two sets, opp. 7 and 9, of 12 concertos each. Each set has four concertos for solo oboe, four concertos for two oboes, and four concertos for strings only. Indermühle plays the 16 solo and duo concertos in catalog sequence, except that op. 9 is on the first disc and op. 7 on the second. (Why couldn’t they have labeled the discs “op. 9” and “op. 7” instead of “Disc 1” and “Disc 2”?) For what it’s worth, the other four contenders offer bonus tracks. Bongiovanni (Alessandro Baccini) adds a recently found concerto to the list. Naxos (Anthony Camden) includes two string concertos from op. 7 plus a newly reconstructed sinfonia. Brilliant (Stefan Schilli) has the four string concertos from op. 9. Heinz Holliger has the advantage of having joined I Musici’s survey of the complete opp. 7 and 9, with two string sonatas from Albinoni’s op. 2 as fillers.
Modern instruments, by the way, are played in all five versions. Period-instrument groups have shown surprisingly little interest in Albinoni’s concertos, but Anthony Robson has recorded the eight solo concertos for Chandos and Paul Goodwin three op. 9 concertos (paired with music of Vivaldi) for Hyperion/Helios to good effect. As for Indermühle, I can safely say that this new two-disc Albinoni set will not disappoint you. Recommended.
FANFARE: George Chien
These are recordings of great charm and interest, featuring musicians who seem to be fully enjoying themselves.
Tomaso Albinoni is another of those underrated and neglected composers of the Italian Baroque. A slightly older contemporary of Vivaldi, and also a native Venetian, Albinoni seems to have existed at the margins of the city’s music-making establishments. Unlike the Red Priest, he never held posts at any of Venice’s churches or ospedali. Instead, he appears to have lived off his father’s paper business and been content to remain a freelance composer. His output was divided into operas and instrumental music. Virtually all of his operatic works have been lost or destroyed, leaving us with around 170 sonatas, sinfonias and concertos.
The oboe concertos on this two-disc set come from the 1715 Op. 7 set of concertos for violin, solo oboe and two oboes, and his subsequent Op. 9 collection for the same combination, published in 1722.
The first disc covers the Op. 9 works. These are more sophisticated than the Op. 7 set, and were dedicated to the Elector of Bavaria. Although influenced by Vivaldi, Albinoni continues to plough his own musical furrow. Instead of frequent ritornello passages and technical feats, we are treated to ‘straighter’ writing, and simpler, lyrical, themes for the soloist(s). At less than 11 minutes in length, the concertos are brief enough to entice repeated listening, and each one has its own engaging quality. The measured elegance of No. 2 in D minor (tracks 1-3) is immediately attractive, with its graceful adagio. No. 3 in F for two oboes (tracks 4-6) provides a template for Albinoni’s concerto-writing in general, while No. 12 in D (tracks 22-24) is given extra depth and colouring through prominent bassoon parts.
The concertos from Op. 7 are inevitably simpler and leaner. They are shorter, too, lasting little more than seven minutes at most. But they are no less attractive. Their lighter construction has the added advantage of laying bare Albinoni’s compositional technique. The concerto No. 3 in B flat major (tracks 4-6) is particularly charming.
The oboe playing by Thomas Indermühle and Jacques Tys is first class - skilful, yet relaxed. Support from I Solisti di Perugia under Paolo Franceschini is equally warm and well-paced. Their enthusiasm and affection for Albinoni’s music is clearly apparent. The sound quality too is first rate, with the harpsichord and occasional organ continuo delightfully audible, yet never distracting from the beguiling oboe lines.
-- John-Pierre Joyce, MusicWeb International Read less