Strauss: Oboe Concerto; Horn Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Duet Concertino

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Strauss
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Oboe Concerto; Horn Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Duet Concertino
PERFORMER: Martin Gabriel (oboe), Lars-Michael Stransky, Ronald Janezic (horn), Peter Schmidl (clarinet), Michael Werba (bassoon)Vienna PO/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: 453 483-2
Set against Rudolf Kempe’s acclaimed EMI recording, this new DG version of Strauss concertos may be pressed to make top choice. Yet it has its rewards. On safest ground is the delightful Duet Concertino for clarinet and bassoon, whose subtly interweaving soloists joyously underline the wit of Strauss’s writing – a feat no other performance here quite pulls off. Beautifully phrased entries generate just the kind of exquisite, uncloying fin-de-siècle languidity which the Oboe Concerto – the least appetising here, despite its three bewitching cadenza-transitions – conspicuously lacks.

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Both horn soloists draw a warm, mellow tone from the Vienna horn in F, and offer a strong lead, inspiring their fellow orchestral players, spasmodically, to gorgeous flights (coaxing cellos, simpering flutes) which offset some more perfunctory, leaden tutti elsewhere. Previn atones for his over-somnolent Andante in the Oboe Concerto with a well-judged, shifting pace that brings the Second Horn Concerto’s enchanting slow movement close to the Four Last Songs, while in the first, a posthorn-like passage imports an austere, Mahlerian dignity before an aptly scampering Mozartian finale rounds off. Though the soloists are well captured, a number of string flourishes sound rather squeezed. Roderic Dunnett