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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, April 2008

None of the music here is particularly well known and not all of it was originally written for oboe and piano. Some corresponds to practised nineteenth century procedures of operatic scena-like curlicues; others stitch together folkloric melodies in an elegant and sophisticated tapestry that offers plenty of opportunities for the legato-spinning and virtuosity-inclined soloist. As the twentieth century progresses we find composers still cleaving strongly to romantic, old fashioned models; nothing therefore challenges the status quo. Equable ease tends to reign supreme.

Johann-Heinrich Luft was one of many musicians who journeyed eastwards to St Petersburg in the nineteenth century to help establish Russian instrumental superiority. He was reputedly the founding father of the Russian oboe school. His Fantasy on Russian Folk Themes is a rather typical operatic sounding affair but filled with light, fluid writing and divided into established sections. There are plenty of virtuoso runs and high spirits as well as a more intense slower variation that extracts some expressive mileage.

Rimsky-Korsakov is a scion of the Russian school of course but his Variations were originally written for oboe and wind band - this arrangement is by G. Kalinkovitch. There’s a dramatic piano introduction and the subsequent variations – on a song by Glinka – have an appealing and only occasionally vapid charm. The most impressive moment is the fine oboe soliloquy with its arresting rather military fanfare moments.  Glière moves us onto 1908, the year of Rimsky’s death. His Op.35 was written for a variety of wind instruments; numbers three and four specifically for the oboe. The first is very brief and lyric; the second even briefer and tinged with tristesse.

Asafyev wrote his Sonatina in 1939. It’s an amiable, larky confection, very concise – the scherzo lasts a minute and three quarters – and therefore abjuring all seriousness, even in the slow movement. Tcherepnin’s here undated Sketches cleave to the School of Parisian Languor. Marina Dranishnikova’s Poème was written in 1953 and is reputed to have inspired by an unhappy love affair. Certainly the piano opens proceedings sternly but the pleading oboe (male/female?) soon establishes primacy – the oboe music has a rarefied, lyric beauty and the piano part Rachmaninovian eloquence. Gorlov wrote his Suite in 1969 though it could have been have 1919 or 1889. The central Vocalise is its most plangent and successful moment. The ubiquitous Rimsky Bee sends us on our way.

This is a pleasant, pleasurable selection very adroitly performed and recorded. It’s not music for cerebral introspection but then that was never the intention. It ranges from the virtuosic-bucolic to the mildly lovelorn without delving much deeper.



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, February 2008

None of the music here is particularly well known and not all of it was originally written for oboe and piano. Some corresponds to practised nineteenth century procedures of operatic scena-like curlicues; others stitch together folkloric melodies in an elegant and sophisticated tapestry that offers plenty of opportunities for the legato-spinning and virtuosity-inclined soloist. As the twentieth century progresses we find composers still cleaving strongly to romantic, old fashioned models; nothing therefore challenges the status quo. Equable ease tends to reign supreme.

Johann-Heinrich Luft was one of many musicians who journeyed eastwards to St Petersburg in the nineteenth century to help establish Russian instrumental superiority. He was reputedly the founding father of the Russian oboe school. His Fantasy on Russian Folk Themes is a rather typical operatic sounding affair but filled with light, fluid writing and divided into established sections. There are plenty of virtuoso runs and high spirits as well as a more intense slower variation that extracts some expressive mileage.

Rimsky-Korsakov is a scion of the Russian school of course but his Variations were originally written for oboe and wind band - this arrangement is by G. Kalinkovitch. There’s a dramatic piano introduction and the subsequent variations – on a song by Glinka – have an appealing and only occasionally vapid charm. The most impressive moment is the fine oboe soliloquy with its arresting rather military fanfare moments.  Glière moves us onto 1908, the year of Rimsky’s death. His Op.35 was written for a variety of wind instruments; numbers three and four specifically for the oboe. The first is very brief and lyric; the second even briefer and tinged with tristesse.

Asafyev wrote his Sonatina in 1939. It’s an amiable, larky confection, very concise – the scherzo lasts a minute and three quarters – and therefore abjuring all seriousness, even in the slow movement. Tcherepnin’s here undated Sketches cleave to the School of Parisian Languor. Marina Dranishnikova’s Poème was written in 1953 and is reputed to have inspired by an unhappy love affair. Certainly the piano opens proceedings sternly but the pleading oboe (male/female?) soon establishes primacy – the oboe music has a rarefied, lyric beauty and the piano part Rachmaninovian eloquence. Gorlov wrote his Suite in 1969 though it could have been have 1919 or 1889. The central Vocalise is its most plangent and successful moment. The ubiquitous Rimsky Bee sends us on our way.

This is a pleasant, pleasurable selection very adroitly performed and recorded. It’s not music for cerebral introspection but then that was never the intention. It ranges from the virtuosic-bucolic to the mildly lovelorn without delving much deeper.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2008

Music for oboe by lesser-known Russian composers provides a potted history of the instrument beginning in the 1830’s with Johann-Heinrich Luft’s Fantasy on Russian Folk Melodies and ends in 1969 with Nikolay Gorlov’s Oboe Suite. It was the German-born Luft who is credited with founding the Russian style of oboe playing, his Fantasy a rather academic score that eventually comes to life with a lively dash to the finishing post. Forty years later Rimsky-Korsakov completed his Variations for oboe and wind band, written at a time when the young composer had a duty as an inspector of naval bands. Here with piano accompaniment we take a giant stride forward in the quality of music, though the composer probably intended it as a ‘throw away’ piece. Maybe the expectation of an outstanding pupil from Arensky, Tanyev and Ippolitov-Ivanov was too much for Reinhold Gliere, his music frequently moving in and out of fashion. The series of Pieces Op.35 were intended for various instruments with piano accompaniment, the Song and Andante being of great beauty. Boris Asafyev became know as a composer in the artistic vacuum of post-revolutionary Russia. Starting out a career as a musicologist and critic, he was already in his 40’s before he determined to be a composer. His Oboe Sonatina dates from 1939, and though belonging to yesteryear, the music is nicely fashioned, each of the four short movements having charm. Nikolay Tcherepnin had been an outstanding pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, but spent much of his time as a conductor and teacher, eventually moving to Paris where he became famous as a ballet composer. Two sections from his Sketches for Wind Instruments take us stylistically into the 20th century, with some unusual harmonies as the oboe embellishes the piano part. Marina Dranishnikova is a totally unknown name, her Poeme from 1953 said to have been composed following an unhappy love with an oboist, the music a mix of excitability and tenderness and should be looked at by all oboists. Representing living Russian composers, Nikolay Gorlov’s Suite really belongs to France in the early part of the 20th century. The disc is completed with a whirlwind account of an adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble-Bee. The principal oboe of the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, Ivan Paisov, produces the long singing lines that much of the music requires, his tone more international than we would have found in the hard-hitting Russian orchestras through to the 1960’s, but that is the way of the world. Agility is here in abundance, his tuning immaculate and he has a most responsive partner in Natalia Shcherbakova. I thought at the outset she was playing a fortepiano, but ears soon adjust to the sound, the oboe given a big and bold up-front recording.






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4:01:05 AM, 21 April 2014
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