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Nancy Ambrose King plays Oboe Concertos
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Oboe Concerto in C K314 (1777) [20.49]
Eugene GOOSSENS (1893-1962) Oboe Concerto in One Movement (1927) [11.52]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Concerto for Oboe and Strings in A minor (1944) [18.32]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra (1955) [17.18]
Nancy Ambrose King (oboe)
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra/Jeremy Swerling
rec. Vitkovice Dum Kulture, Ostrava, Czech Republic, 5-7 Sept 2000, 7 Jan 2002. DDD
CALA CACD1035 [68.66]

Cala and Nancy Ambrose King have not stinted on their coverage of oboe concertos. Here are four - one from Mozart and three from the last century - each being of princely lyricism.

Ms Ambrose King’s tone is ample, fruity, catching the woody temper of the instrument. Her breath control is excellent without choppiness and the key action is silent. Her Mozart is playful and spiritual as required. The Ostrava-based orchestra and Jeremy Swerling turn in an ‘old-style’ version with luxuriant string tone and weightiness - more Walter or Böhm than Harnoncourt or Pinnock. There are some gorgeous moments in the Mozart especially in the adagio non troppo like a cross between prayer and seduction. By the time you have heard this you will realise how close the Oboe Concerto can be to the much more famous Clarinet Concerto.

The Goossens blends Gallic styling (Ravel/Debussy - elements of both) with themes out of a decidedly English pastoral vision. The initial call-to-arms (strangely Coplandesque) is more arpeggiated than usual. I compared the opening with the example recently released on Oboe Classics by Emily Pailthorpe - a version for piano and oboe. Generally the players in Ostrava find time for the poetic statements to ring out in a lusher warmer harvest of opulence even though the Cala version plays for 13.11 rather than the 11.52 here. The Vaughan Williams concerto is taken with similar breadth and it pays rich dividends. Its singing soul is close to that of the Goossens but the work is much more direct, less laden with texture and orchestral decoration; less French. Also RVW’s themes are more memorable and his melodic resource is spent open-handedly because his treasury is deep. The work is playful and winsome and so often recalls the splendid orchestral treatment in the opera Sir John in Love. The competition includes Berglund’s EMI Classics version (currently deleted) with John Williams (then principal oboe with the Bournemouth Symphony) which is more muscular. However this present version goes straight to the top as the disc of choice if you want to hear the RVW Oboe Concerto. The Martinů is a late work. It was written at the request of the Czech emigré oboist Jiří Tancibudek and was premiered in August 1956 with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. Again the approach has breadth but not quite the infusion of snappy élan ideal for Martinů. In this respect what I recall of the Hantak Supraphon version is to be preferred. Still, this is lovingly done and the work is made to sound neither drily neo-classical nor audaciously impressionistic. The character of the countryside piper, jaunty and musing, as at the end of the middle movement is well put across by Ms Ambrose King.

This is the only collection of these works. For those having a taste for the oboe, pitched in harmonious partnership with the orchestra, the choice is clear. All concerned can take a well-deserved bow for this one and the Vaughan Williams and Mozart are gorgeous.

Rob Barnett


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