Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphonies: No. 82 in C,
No. 86 in D.
Oboe Concerto in C
Guy van Waas, cond; Benoît Laurent (ob); Les Agrémens
RICERCAR RIC 309 (66:06)
The booklet has nothing to say about Les Agrémens beyond a personnel roster, which lists a string body of about 20 (5/6/4/3/2 for “The Bear”). This Belgian ensemble plays what sound like period instruments,
but at a high pitch more typical of modern ensembles. Guy van Waas leads a comfortable, attentive performance of the C-Major Symphony that does justice to this potent work; the trouble is that we have been spoiled by magnificent performances, starting with that by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, the most acclaimed recording of any Haydn symphony ever. The braying trumpets in the finale make a fine impression here, but the strings do not elucidate all the details in the score. Part of the problem is overly reverberant recorded sound, which blurs the strings at lower dynamic levels and produces distinct echoes of cleanly played ff chords.
The remaining two works on this disc were recorded at a different session and suffer less from the reverberance. Ludwig-August Lebrun (1752–90) was born in Mannheim to a father “clearly of Brussels origin” who had become oboist and assistant conductor of the court orchestra. The son became a famous oboist who played throughout Europe and wrote many concertos for his own use. Since the “Haydn” Oboe Concerto is not actually Haydn’s, why not try someone else’s concerto in its stead? Lebrun’s 1777 Concerto in C displays melodic charm, sprightly rhythms, wit, and a Haydn-like sense of development and variation. Having been written by an oboist, it has cadenzas in all three movements. I am seldom partial to Classical composers of the second rank (i.e., anyone but Mozart, Haydn, and J. C. Bach), but I am won over by Lebrun. Much of the credit must go to Benoît Laurent, who plays a warm, fluent oboe with ease and flair, reveling in the delightful music. It’s obvious that I have been slow on the uptake: There are many recordings of Lebrun oboe concertos, including a two-disc DG Archiv Produktion set of seven, played by Heinz Holliger. I’ve heard none of them but am willing to wager this wonderful performance against all comers.
introduction to the D-Major Symphony is played with awesome power and dignity, and its
has enormous panache. Only the elegance and ease of Bernstein’s New Yorkers and Kristjan Järvi’s Austrians is missed—as is the latter’s golden sound. Laurent’s oboe contributes much to both of these Haydn symphony performances. In common with most recordings of the “Paris” symphonies, Van Waas does not include second repeats in sonata-form movements. I tend to be quite snotty about works “attributed to Haydn,” so I’ve never had occasion to recommend a Haydn disc primarily for a non-Haydn filler. There’s always a first time!
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Oboe in C major by Ludwig August Lebrun
Benoît Laurent (Oboe)
Guy Van Waas
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