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Oboe Concerto; Symphony No.2

Luxembourg Percussion/Fabrice Mélinon (oboe)/Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra/ Radio-Tele-Luxembourg Symphony Orchestra, all directed by Marcel Wengler
Editions LGNM 541 (Portrait Marcel Wengler)

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Marcel Wengler (b. 1946) was artistic director of the ISCM World Music Days in Luxembourg and the foremost musical energiser of that small country. Its composers are well represented on CD, under the auspices of the Luxembourg Society for Contemporary Music, and Wengler is the expert conductor of very many of the orchestral works in the series.

This portrait CD begins with an oboe concerto with strings (1984), a fairly conventional vehicle for the instrument which does not negate one's pastoral expectations. Euphonious and melodic, it is pleasant but unmemorable. I felt the same about Batuque, which was composed after a visit to Brazil. It does far less with seven percussionists than did two heard at The Warehouse last week! (A performance of Batuque is reviewed by Anton Rovner in his report of the EuropeAsia festival in Kazan.)

A good reason, however, to buy this CD is Wengler's 2nd Symphony of 1982. This is a large single movement, nearly half an hour, which fully justifies a title which can nowadays evoke guilt feelings 'for applying the word 'symphony' to what is in effect only a larger work for orchestra'. Wengler's contribution to the genre could not be describes otherwise. It is a major statement, dark, rather expressionistic in manner, orchestrated with consummate skill and he fills the canvas with generous ideas. The method of composition is far from doctrinaire, & Wengler has no truck with 'systems'. I am happy to endorse his own description of it as containing 'numerous elements and motifs alternately working together and competing - - - developing, destroying or changing each other - - discarded motifs vanish unobtrusively to make room for 'stronger' ideas - the composition sought and fought a way to its goal by itself'. He contends that it needs no explanation, and I found, as he hoped, that it makes a strong, immediate impression 'as intended and conceived'.

This authoratitive performance is also included on another CD of music by four Luxembourg composers, Vol. 2 of the Editions LGNM Anthologie de Musique Luxembourgoise, and that might be a better way to acquire it.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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