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LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Oboe Concerto No. 1; Oboe Concerto No. 2; Oboe Concerto No. 4
PERFORMER: Bart Schneemann (oboe); Netherlands Radio CO/Jan Willem de Vriend
Mozart’s apart, worthwhile Classical oboe concertos are pretty thin on the ground. Which makes this trio of works by Ludwig August Lebrun – German-born despite his French surname – all the more welcome. Lebrun (1752-90) was one of the stars of the famed Mannheim orchestra, and his orchestral style shows such typical Mannheim features as the slow-burn crescendo over a static bass line. Beyond that, these concertos sport a fetching vein of cantabile melody, a neat, economical structural sense and, as you’d expect, a thoroughly idiomatic feeling for the oboe’s distinctive character. In the two minor-keyed concertos Lebrun makes dramatic capital of the contrast between the power of the full orchestra (including trumpets and timpani in No. 1) and the plaintive, vulnerable voice of the soloist. The slow movements in these two concertos are especially beguiling: a tender, siciliano-style Grazioso in No. 1, and a sinuous Adagio, with delicately inventive textures, in No. 2 – no doubt the kind of music that prompted the contemporary description of Lebrun’s compositions as ‘sweet drops of nectar’. In the finales – shades here of Haydn – Lebrun entertainingly exploits the oboe’s capacity for puckish wit and quickfire repartee. Abetted by prompt, sharply characterised accompaniments, the Australian oboist Bart Schneemann clearly relishes this euphonious, easy-going music, deploying a sweet, smooth tone (a noted feature of Lebrun’s own playing), admirable agility and nicely varied articulation. A highly attractive proposition for oboe fanciers and anyone who enjoys venturing into the 18th-century hinterland. Richard Wigmore