JS Bach: Concertos and Sinfonias for oboe

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Alessandro Marcello/JS Bach,Bach
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: JS Bach: Concertos and Sinfonias for oboe: Sinfonia from Cantata ‘Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis’ BWV 21; Concerto in C minor for oboe, violin, strings and basso continuo, BWV 1060 etc; Alessandro Marcello/JS Bach Concerto in D minor for oboe, strings and basso continuo
PERFORMER: Heinz Holliger (oboe); Camerata Bern/Erich Höbarth (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 476 4386

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In a world of specialists, Heinz Holliger is a musical polymath in both skills and styles. He’s composer, conductor and, at the age of 73, still a fine oboist in music from the late Baroque to the sharp end of the avant-garde. Despite such breadth of interest, he’s a committed practical scholar in the early music field; the A major Harpsichord Concerto appears here in his own reconstruction for oboe d’amore and strings. He plays idiomatically too, with stylish decorations. Yet surprisingly he combines his modern oboe with Baroque period strings.

Oboists have enthusiastically commandeered several works to ensure they are not denied a share in Bach concertos. There’s clear evidence that Bach wrote such works, now lost but preserved in his own transcriptions. Tracking their lineage can be complex – lost concerto movements are, for example, identified as organ solos in cantatas, then reconstructed as a putative
oboe concerto (BWV 1059) and a glorious contribution to the Baroque repertoire.

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Comparison with a 1980’s recording suggests Holliger’s tone is warmer now, and his vibrato is more  discreet. Camerata Bern supports buoyantly though with momentary minor tuning lapses. A deeper recording perspective for Holliger, and Eric Höbarth in BWV 1060, would create more soloistic contrast, though the alto oboe d’amore is vividly projected in BWV 1055.
A fine testimony to an outstandingly versatile musician – most enjoyable. George Pratt