Clara Schumann, Schumann: Three Romances, Op. 94; Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70; Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Abendlied. Three Romances, Op. 22

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Clara Schumann,Schumann
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi Les nouveaux musiciens
WORKS: Three Romances, Op. 94; Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70; Fünf Stücke im Volkston, Op. 102; Fantasiestücke, Op. 73; Abendlied. Three Romances, Op. 22
PERFORMER: Alexei Ogrintchouk (oboe, oboe d’amore), Leonid Ogrintchouk (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMN 911804
Robert Schumann wrote only one original piece for oboe, the set of Three Romances, and even that goes off the bottom of the instrument’s range at one point. But the Romances and his other fluently expressive wind pieces were published with various string instruments as alternatives, and that has encouraged several oboists to create Schumann programmes with their own borrowings.

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The latest, in Harmonia Mundi’s series Les nouveaux musiciens, is Alexei Ogrintchouk, trained in his native Moscow and in Paris, and now principal oboist of Valery Gergiev’s Rotterdam Philharmonic. He and his capable pianist (a relative? – the booklet doesn’t tell us) start the Romances with rubato which sounds calculated rather than felt, but thereafter his plangent tone, supple phrasing and control of tuning and dynamics are consistently impressive. Ogrintchouk makes a good case for the oboe in the violin Romances of Schumann’s wife Clara, but the adaptations of Robert’s Adagio and Allegro for horn and three of his Five Pieces in Folk Style for cello are less convincing. Most successful are the clarinet Fantasy Pieces, played on the mezzo-soprano oboe d’amore, which fits the music like a glove.

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The most nearly comparable disc is the recent Oboe Classics issue by Jeremy Polmear and Diana Ambache (reviewed in March). No Fantasy Pieces, but Polmear scores heavily by playing the Adagio and Allegro and the complete Pieces in Folk Style on the cor anglais, giving them far greater character. Polmear occasionally yields a little to Ogrintchouk in instrumental finesse, but his makes the more satisfying programme. Anthony Burton