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Berlioz’s Lost Oboe

Christopher Palameta (oboe), Olivia Sham (piano) (Ramée)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Berlioz’s Lost Oboe – Early French Romantic Music for Oboe and Piano
Works by Bochsa, Kalkbrenner, Thalberg, Verroust, Vogt et al
Christopher Palameta (oboe), Olivia Sham (piano)
Ramée RAM2108   55:41 mins


The 19th century witnessed the oboe’s transformation, especially at the hands of Parisian woodwind-instrument makers. With Berlioz’s Lost Oboe Christopher Palameta documents the sound of the instrument at a transitional time, bringing to life little-known repertoire. Music and instruments are judiciously matched: Palameta plays an oboe from the mid-1830s by FG Adler, and Olivia Sham performs on a grand piano from 1840 made in the London workshop of the Erard firm.

The repertoire spans the years 1815-40, including music by oboists Henri Brod, Stanislas Verroust and Gustave Vogt. Solo piano works, one each from Frédéric Kalkbrenner and Sigismond Thalberg, reveal something of the timbral ingenuity of early- to mid-19th-century pianist-composers active in Paris. In the company of this repertoire the final track, Robert Schumann’s ‘Mondnacht’ from the Op. 39 Liederkreis, seems out of place. Given the album’s title, however ambiguous, a transcription of music by Hector Berlioz or an aria from one of the many operas premiered in Paris during the 1830s might have been a more appropriate choice.

Brod was a maker as well as a player, and his idiomatic transcription of Ernst’s violin Élégie is delicately and persuasively captured by Palameta. Vogt’s vocalises remind us how wind players have always sought to emulate the human voice, and in these two works Palameta captures the long cantabile lines effectively. The ‘Romance’ from Johann Peter Pixis’s Op. 35 Sonata is a particular gem, and here Palameta effectively nuances his sound with elegant vibrato.


Ingrid Pearson