Clara Schumann, Schumann: Drei Romanzen, Op. 94; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70; Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102; Abendlied, Op. 85

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COMPOSERS: Clara Schumann,Schumann
LABELS: Oboe Classics
WORKS: Drei Romanzen, Op. 94; Adagio & Allegro, Op. 70; Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102; Abendlied, Op. 85
PERFORMER: Jeremy Polmear (oboe, cor anglais)Diana Ambache (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CC 2002 (distr. Select)
Oboe Classics is a new British-based label designed, like Clarinet Classics and Cello Classics before it, to focus on a single instrument, its repertoire and its performers. It has made a bright start with a well-varied first batch of releases, attractively presented with a clear design identity, and with generally helpful notes supplemented by further material accessible via its website (www.oboeclassics.com). Most of this is the work of the label’s founder Jeremy Polmear, who (like his clarinet and cello counterparts) is also no slouch as a performer. His enjoyable programme, with Diana Ambache, of music by the Schumanns inevitably consists mostly of arrangements: the cello Pieces in Folk Style transfer especially well to the cor anglais.

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Two other new recordings come from opposite ends of the oboe repertoire. The Japanese period-instrument group La Fontaine offers exuberant, sometimes perhaps over-exuberant, readings of mid-18th-century chamber music for various woodwind combinations, including a startlingly showy Trio Sonata for oboes by the Catalan Pla brothers. And Paul Goodey is a persuasive advocate for an engaging selection of contemporary music, including Edwin Roxburgh’s 1979 At the Still Point of the Turning World…, which uses electronic delay and treatment to create an entire grazing flock of oboes, and Cecilia McDowall’s White Fox Woman, a sinister little scena for voice and oboe specially written for the disc.

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Another aim of the label is to present reissue compilations celebrating the work of great oboists of the past and present. The doyen of Dutch oboists, Han de Vries, is heard to great advantage in familiar concertos by Bach and Mozart, a lively Weber-like Concertino by the Bohemian Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda, Telemann’s remarkable C minor Concerto played on a Baroque instrument, and Louis Andriessen’s 1969 Anachronie II, in which pastiche ‘wallpaper music’ is attacked by eruptions of ultra-modernism. And a collection of early recordings by Leon Goossens, in variable but generally acceptable transfers, includes numerous examples of his Kreisler-like way with lighter music, and a wonderfully rhapsodic 1927 account of the Bax Quintet with strings – the first of many ‘oboe classics’ written for one of the great instrumentalists of the 20th century.