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American Record Guide, December 2008

As the title of the album suggests, each work is full of wonderful adaptations and variations on opera melodies. The program is a Fantasy on Donizetti’s Poliuto, a Concerto based on Donizetti’s Favorita, the Grand Concerto on themes from Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers, a Fantasy on Meyerbeer’s Huguenots, and the Ricordo di Napoli: Scherzo brillante.

This is Paisov and Shcherbakova’s second contribution to the recorded oboe and piano repertoire with Naxos [the first was The Russian Oboe, 8.570596 - Ed]…All five of these pieces are a delight, but the best is the Grand Concerto on themes from Verdi’s Sicilian Vespers, which can also be heard with Katsuya Watanabe and David Johnson on Profil There is a clear distinction between the performances of these two oboists, and I prefer Paisov. The music makes so much more sense in this performance, not to mention that most of it is more thrilling. Watanabe’s performance is almost six minutes longer; I wonder how it is really possible to add that much length to it. The starkest contrast is between their tempos in the first half of the work. Paisov and Shcherbakova play so the listener can easily hear and hold onto the melody; Watanabe and Johnson elongate the phrases so much that the music seems to become subordinate to the tempo. The performance here is virtuosic and brimming with polish.

Michael Carter
Fanfare, November 2008

I first encountered the manifold and impressive talents of oboist Ivan Paisov on “The Russian Oboe,” …Paisov’s second release is just as stunning, if not more so. It holds over an hour of operatic fantasies that thrill, charm, and mesmerize. Paisov and Shcherbakova are an ideal pairing whose virtuosity is unquestionable and whose give and take is second to none. Paisov’s tone is beautifully clear, never tight or pinched in the upper register, and warm and rich in the lower reaches of the instrument. He makes his way through Pasculli’s demanding adaptations, replete with scales and arpeggios, with apparent ease and a singing tone. Natalia Shcherbakova is an exceptional pianist who provides sturdy, unwavering, and when necessary, virtuosic support. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Glyn Pursglove
MusicWeb International, July 2008

The name of Antonio Pasculli is not one heard a great deal these days – except amongst oboists and lovers of that particular instrument; or, I suppose, in the course of heated conversations amongst those (if they exist) with a special interest in the operatic paraphrase of the nineteenth century.

Born in Palermo, Pasculli became one of the great virtuosos of the oboe. From fourteen onwards he was touring Europe as a performer. At the age of eighteen he was made Professor of oboe at the Conservatory in Palermo – continuing to teach there until 1913. His career as a performer ended in the mid 1880s when he had serious problems with his eyes. Like many an instrumental virtuoso of the time, Pasculli wrote a good deal of music for his own performance, and it seems safe to assume that all the works here were composed for this reason, and therefore written before Pasculli’s retirement from the stage. Music thus written seeks, of course, to entertain an audience – but part of that entertainment will always be bound up with the soloist’s display of his/her technique. Substantial musical interest exists in a precarious balance with the demonstration of the performer’s instrumental command. It has to be said that in some of these pieces display is very much to the forefront – and any potential purchasers will need to make up their own minds as to how much that appeals (or doesn’t).

Certainly Paisov’s command of his instrument is very impressive. His breath control is remarkable in some of the many fast runs in the music – Pasculli seems, at times, to leave the soloist no place to breathe at all! But Piasov also produces some attractive lyricism in some of the more tender episodes.

Where I knew the opera ‘paraphrased’ by Pasculli (such as I vespri siciliani) there was a particular satisfaction to be had in observing the relationship between original and reworking; where I didn’t know the original (as with Donizetti’s Poliuto) even Keith Anderson’s helpful booklet notes on the opera couldn’t altogether prevent my finding Pasculli’s work rather empty. At times the spinning of notes seems to be a kind of self-justifying phenomenon, and one is happy to escape from a certain aridity which such passages embody. In general it is when Pasculli’s work is at its most gently melodic that it is most satisfying. Then, provided one has no exaggerated expectations of the music – this is not music of any great weight, emotionally or intellectually – one can sit back and enjoy. But even so, it isn’t, I suspect an experience I shall want to indulge in too often.

Natalia Shcherbakova is a sympathetic accompanist, though the recorded sound doesn’t always do full justice to her instrument.

For non-specialists this is a CD which will be useful for reference and which will deserve to be dipped into from time to time – but I shall be very surprised if it triggers any widespread growth of interest in Pasculli’s music.

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