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Arthur S. Leonard
Leonard Link, September 2009

Baroque Perfection: Stacy Plays Bach & Telemann for Naxos

One of the great joys of being a New York Philharmonic subscriber over the past 30 years has been the opportunity to hear the magnificent solo players of the orchestra, and most particularly the solo wind players. One standout in that group is Thomas Stacy, perhaps the most outstanding of English Horn (cor anglais) players. Stacy also enjoys playing the Oboe d’amore, the mellow-toned ancient relative of the oboe, but doesn’t get much opportunity to do so with the Philharmonic as the fashion for modern symphony orchestras playing Baroque music seems to have largely slipped away…Now there is an opportunity to hear Stacy playing this instrument in this repertory with a Naxos release comprising four concerti, two each by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann…On this new Naxos recording with Kevin Mallon and the superb Toronto Chamber Orchestra, Stacy begins the program with the G major concerto, then plays two Bach concerti (BWV 1055 and 1053), and concludes with the other Telemann concerto, the A major. Stacy’s smoothly flowing performances are completely beguiling, warmly phrased, technically secure, and completely at one with Mallon’s accompaniment. Naxos achieved excellent sound and balances in St Anne’s Church in Toronto, a finely resonant recording space. The program runs 74 minutes, making a generously-filled CD. This is one of those Naxos bargains that deserves to be a runaway best-seller.

George Chien
Fanfare, March 2009

As expected, Stacy delivers fine performances, impeccably played and imaginatively ornamented, with stylish support from the Toronto Chamber Orchestra and its Irish-born, Baroque-specialist music director, Kevin Mallon. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, November 2008

…stylish performances by the Toronto Chamber Orchestra under Kevin Mallon. This is joyful, exuberant music one never tires of listening to, no matter the instrumental garb in which it is dressed. Bach’s A-Major Concerto in particular has been the province of oboists for a long time, and can be heard on over three-dozen recordings on either oboe or oboe d’amore. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

American Record Guide, September 2008

Thomas Stacy has been English horn player with the New York Philharmonic for many years and has made many recordings while there. The praise for him from conductors, composers, and other critics today and of the past is all warranted. He has impeccable technique and musicianship, and I am always inspired by his playing. The Toronto Chamber Orchestra directed by Kevin Mallon is also stunning and impressive.

There cannot be a better recording of Telemann and Bach oboe d'amore concertos than this. They are close to perfection. Stacy is a professional musician with a refined sense of musical intuition coupled with affection for and an intimate understanding of the music and his instrument. Few musicians are such consummate artists.

This recording should be a required purchase.

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, August 2008

The soloist here, Thomas Stacy, is principal cor anglais player with the New York Philharmonic and is, according to the notes, “the most recorded English hornist in the world”. He certainly does a good job with the material here. Note, though: he plays on a modern instrument, as do the Toronto Chamber Orchestra, though they are very well versed in Baroque style and technique.

The Bach works automatically seem more substantial, with Bach’s characteristic busy arguments in the openings of both…it’s very attractive music throughout, expertly played by musicians who clearly love this repertoire. The sound is very good…

John Terauds
Toronto Star, August 2008

Conductor Kevin Mallon leads a modern-instrument ensemble using period-instrument playing techniques. The result is a pleasant, light, rhythmically alert sound…that matches beautifully with American oboe d’amore master Thomas Stacy’s elegant playing. It is such a mellow sounding instrument, from which Stacy coaxes every possible shade of musicality…

Julian Haylock
Classic FM, August 2008

Beguillingly performed on modern instruments with historical awareness, these affectionate interpretations of Baroque treasures make for ideal late-night listening.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, June 2008

These works are all quite familiar, and Mr. Stacy plays them with smooth, elegant phrasing and lovely tone.

Dan Davis, May 2008

Thomas Stacy, the New York Philharmonic's English horn player, turns to the instrument's relative, the oboe d'amore, with four delectable concertos for that instrument by Buxtehude and Bach. The sheer sound of the instrument, especially when played by an artist of Stacy's caliber, is irresistible, darker than an oboe and more rounded and textured than an English horn, making the gently lilting Adagio of Telemann's G major concerto a ravishing listening experience. Stacy's juicy tone also enhances these performances of the Bach works, reconstructed from the master's harpsichord concertos, themselves recyclings of cantata movements.

The soloist's entry in Bach's A major concerto exploits the rounded timbre of the instrument's lower register, and in the Larghetto, an aria in all but name, we hear its full range sung with beauty. A highlight of the Bach D major concerto is the haunting Siciliano, again an example of the instrument's warmth that draws the listener deep into the music.

Stacy is well-supported by the Toronto Chamber Orchestra led by Kevin Mallon, a capable 15-player modern-instrument ensemble, and the engineering is quite good though greater prominence could have been given to the continuo. Wonderful music brilliantly played. What more could one ask for? A bit more oomph would help. Tempos are always moderate, so the Vivace finale of the Telemann G major never kicks its heels with the necessary abandon, nor do the Allegros have the last measure of requisite swing. And while slow movements are drop-dead gorgeous, ears used to current period-instrument performances may wish for tempos that flow a bit more easily. But such carpings quickly dissipate in the listening. This is one of those CDs that threatens to take permanent occupancy of your CD player.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2008

The oboe d’amore fell out of fashion at the end of the 18th century, though in the Baroque repertoire its tranquil and serene quality found much favour.

Telemann wrote three concertos for the instrument, though it is open to conjecture that Bach ever composed such works. That uncertainty arises from his predilection for arranging concertos for different instruments, and only the most slender evidence exists that either concerto here recorded was originally for the instrument. The concerto in A major BWV 1055 is known in its format for harpsichord and strings, though there are those who think that the figurations in the solo part could well have suggested it was an arrangement of an earlier woodwind concerto, and if so it could have been the oboe d’amore. The D major is even more ‘cobbled’ together, this time using material from Cantatas that featured parts for the instrument. Ironically it is the two works by Bach that make the most immediate impression, the orchestral part being distinguished and much more than a routine accompaniment. They are played by Thomas Stacy, the cor anglais for the New York Philharmonic, and in that capacity has appeared with them as a soloist on many occasions. Completely at home in those deft ornamentations that are played with faultless agility, he produces a very ripe quality from his instrument, given added weight by the close microphone placement. His partners are the Toronto Chamber Orchestra conducted by Kevin Mallon. A modern instrument group, their playing is neat and well versed in modern thoughts on good Baroque style. At times I feel the music needed to be pushed forward with greater urgency, though the performances make an interesting traversal of some little known repertoire. As a sampling point try track 5, the Allegro from Bach’s A major concerto, which to my ears is the most attractive work on the disc. The general sound quality is good despite being overly generous to the soloist.

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