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Music For Oboe, Horn And Piano

Polmear / Sterling / Saxel
Release Date: 10/09/2012 
Label:  Oboe Classics   Catalog #: 2022   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartAdolphe BlancHeinrich HerzogenbergMolbe Molbe,   ... 
Performer:  Stephen StirlingJeremy PolmearRichard Saxel
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MUSIC FOR OBOE, HORN, AND PIANO Jeremy Polmear (ob); Stephen Stirling (hn); Richard Saxel (pn) OBOE CLASSICS CC2022 (68:49)

MOZART Trio after the Horn Quintet, K 407. BLANC Romance, op. 43b. HERZOGENBERG Trio, op. 61. MOLBE Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Air arabe. BASLER Vocalise-Waltz. DAMASE Trio

Despite the unusual combination of instruments featured here, only one piece is played in an arrangement rather than its original version; the Mozart Horn Quintet has the first violin part given to the oboe and the second violin, viola, and cello parts to the piano. The adaptation is a complete success, especially when the work is given the unabashedly warm, relaxed, romantically songful performance it receives here.

The Frenchman Adolphe Blanc (1828–85) was a composer of chamber music at a time and place where opera held supreme sway as the dominant form of serious music, and as a consequence he was, and remains, little known, with only his op. 40 Septet having a marginal claim to familiarity. The brief Romance presented here is quite enjoyable. So too is the “Air arabe” by “Henri Molbe,” actually a pseudonym for Heinrich Freiherr von Bach (1835–1915), a Viennese barrister who composed some 200 songs and 140 chamber pieces. It is a trifle composed for salon entertainment, with a vaguely exotic, pseudo-oriental atmosphere.

Also enjoyable at its modest level is the Trio from 1865 of Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843–1900), which stands beside one of Carl Reinecke as one of only two such full-length 19th-century compositions for this instrumental trio. The booklet notes doth protest far too much in a ludicrous effort to disclaim any influence of Brahms on Herzogenberg. Admitting that “he is sometimes considered a pale imitator,” they desperately plead that “this is not derivative music” and “if its style has any similarity to that of Brahms, that similarity is very superficial.” Likewise, “It could be argued that Herzogenberg’s Scherzo has similarities to the last movement of the Brahms [Horn Trio], including accents on the third beat of the bar—yet the world that Herzogenberg’s piece inhabits is a quite different one.” The bald truth is that “pale imitator” is all too accurate a description, and in the case of the aforementioned Scherzo Brahms could have sued for plagiarism. However, if you take its four movements for what they are and don’t set your expectations too high, they provide a relaxing 20-minute diversion.

Paul Basler (b. 1963) earned master’s degrees in composition and horn performance, as well as a doctorate in the latter, at SUNY Stony Brook, and has been a member of the music faculty at the University of Florida since 1994. His music is thoroughly tonal in orientation; as a devout Roman Catholic he has written numerous sacred choral compositions. Vocalise-Waltz , composed in 1996, opens with a flowing melody that takes on a slightly jazzy feel at times, before it segues into a waltz with a main theme that somehow brought to my mind a distant association with that of Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Jean-Michel Damase (b. 1928) was a child prodigy who was trained at the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied piano under Alfred Cortot and composition under Henri Busser and Marcel Dupré and won the Prix de Rome in 1947. His four-movement Trio from 1990 is one of those delightfully witty, saucy pieces with a more pensive interlude in the slow movement that one associates with figures such as Poulenc and Françaix, and is thoroughly worthy of being in their company.

This is one of those surprising niche releases that affords considerable and unalloyed pleasure. The performances in every case are top-notch and utterly idiomatic, and set in a flattering recording space that provides good perspective and a bit of resonance. Of the three collaborators (all British freelance artists), hornist Stephen Stirling is easily the best known, particularly renowned for his Mozart recordings; oboist Jeremy Polmear is the founder of the Oboe Classics label, and pianist Richard Saxel also has a solo recital CD on the Quartz Records label. My one nitpicking cavil has to do with the booklet; it provides no dates for, and very little biographical information on, the composers, and on one page prints tiny black type against a dark red background so that the result is unduly difficult to read. Otherwise, this release is enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Quintet for Horn, Violin, 2 Violas and Cello in E flat major, K 407 (386c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Stephen Stirling (French Horn), Jeremy Polmear (Oboe), Richard Saxel (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1782; Vienna, Austria 
Romance for Horn and Orchestra, Op. 43bis by Adolphe Blanc
Performer:  Stephen Stirling (French Horn), Jeremy Polmear (Oboe), Richard Saxel (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Trio for Piano, Oboe and Horn in D minor, Op. 61 by Heinrich Herzogenberg
Performer:  Stephen Stirling (French Horn), Jeremy Polmear (Oboe), Richard Saxel (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1889; Germany 
Air arabe by Molbe Molbe
Performer:  Stephen Stirling (French Horn), Jeremy Polmear (Oboe), Richard Saxel (Piano)
Vocalise-Waltz by Paul Basler
Performer:  Stephen Stirling (French Horn), Jeremy Polmear (Oboe), Richard Saxel (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1996 
Trio for Oboe, Horn and Piano by Jean-Michel Damase
Performer:  Stephen Stirling (French Horn), Jeremy Polmear (Oboe), Richard Saxel (Piano)

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