Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sonata for Oboe and Piano,
Amoroso. Ordo modalis,
Music for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano,
Vavrikova (ob); Radana Foltýnová (pn); Ivana Dohnalova (hp); Václav Vonásek (bn); Grand Valley Winds
This disc’s title is
Petr Eben: Chamber Music for Oboe
. Eben (1929-2007) was a Czech organist and composer; recordings of his music have centered on organ and choral music, although there was a recent disc of songs. Because he refused to join the obligatory Communist organizations, his music was little heard before the 1989 Velvet Revolution. These pieces span much of his active life, from 1950 to 1995.
(1972) are just that: six brief character pieces of about a minute each for oboe and piano. The 1950 Sonata is fresh and clean, with a military-style opening movement, a
, and a bubbling
finale; tonal yet harmonically adventurous, it is original enough to escape comparisons to mentors or influences—a charming and a promising op. 1. The 1963
consists of seven brief dances for oboe and harp. It is a wining combination, the harp’s gentle, round tones cut by the oboe’s colorful edge; yet the oboe stays in C Major, while the harp travels around the keys: clever, and effective!
, for oboe and piano, was commissioned as a “mandatory composition” to explore “the technical and melodic possibilities of the oboe” by the 1996 Prague Spring Festival. Despite its music-on-demand origin, it sparkles with wit and spirit. Another five-minute piece follows, but one in a different mood:
, for the same forces, slowly works its way in quarter-tone steps toward a miniature climax and then relaxes into a love theme. From loneliness to satisfaction? It takes some imagination, aided by the program notes, to decode that.
(1964) again replaces the piano with a harp. It is a complex, five-movement suite (
Intrada, Air, Rigaudon, Sarabanda, Giga da caccia
) referring back to Shakespeare’s
Venus and Adonis
. Title and musical structure are all tied up in clever games; too complex to follow in real time, they do not get in the way of thoroughly winning music, with oboe and harp even more complementary than
. The 1970
Music for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano
bounces in and out of tonality, producing a variety of excitement and color. All three instruments get a good workout, the winds a cadenza apiece.
The 1965 Wind Quintet’s opening movement is called
; its focus on individual instruments and its strong, thrusting character bring Nielsen’s Quintet to mind. The second and fourth movements,
I and II, are basically duets, the first for oboe and bassoon (accompanied), the second for flute and clarinet (unaccompanied). The central
I movement unites all five instruments in ensemble, as does the finale,
II. The moods range from dark and mysterious to wild and playful, in a quintet which rivals the masterpieces of Nielsen, Hindemith, and Ligeti.
Marlen Vavrikova is a fine oboist and is well supported by her colleagues. Her tone is strong and colorful; close miking can turn it sharp enough to make headphone listening occasionally a touch uncomfortable. The works on this disc are ordered to go from merely charming to vibrant and pithy. Eben’s music is very much worth getting to know.
FANFARE: James H. North
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