LABELS: Oboe Classics
WORKS: Virtuoso oboe music
PERFORMER: Christopher Redgate (oboe)Stephen Robbings (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 2006
On the cover of this disc, the Sicilian Antonino Pasculli (1842-1924) is described as ‘the Paganini of the Oboe’; and indeed his music, like that of the legendary violinist, pushes virtuosity on his instrument to spectacular new heights. However, Pasculli was hardly a comparable creative artist, and most of his compositions are in the favourite Italian mode of fantasias, incorporating sets of increasingly brilliant variations, on popular operatic themes – here by Verdi, Meyerbeer and Donizetti. They are neatly put together, though, with plenty of opportunities for lyrical expression as well as agile register-crossing and lightning-fast fingering.
Christopher Redgate, previously better known for the different kind of virtuosity required for the avant-garde, negotiates all Pasculli’s bravura writing with stunning aplomb, and his use of circular breathing in the study ‘The Bees’ leaves the listener gasping in more ways than one. He could to advantage have treated the original operatic melodies with more pointed phrasing and a greater range of dynamics – though the latter deficiency might be due to the boxy recording, which also does not flatter Stephen Robbings’s assured piano playing. But this is a disc to open the ears of all oboists, and to entertain and astonish less specialist music-lovers. Anthony Burton