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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370/368b [17:04]
Ketil HVOSLEF (b. 1939)
Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (2012) [20:33]
Harald SÆVERUD (1897–1992)
Oboe Concerto, Op. 12 (1938) [21:04]
Rondo amoroso, Op. 14, No. 7 [4:45]
David Friedemann Strunck (oboe)
Elise Båtnes (violin); Henninge Båtnes Landaas (viola); Bjørn Solum (cello)
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Arvid Engegård
rec. Grefsen Church, Oslo, November 2013; Oslo Concert Hall, January & April 2014

The Mozart presented here was the only piece I knew before I listened to this disc. I imagine that Ketil Hvoslef and Harald Sæverud are not household names outside Norway. The excellent booklet notes by Ricardo Odriozola, point to a link between all the works. The Mozart inspired the Hvoslef, whilst Sæverud is Hvoslef’s father.

The interpretation of the Mozart benefits from a more modern approach, one which has been tempered by the authentic instrument movement and which is unaffected by the romantic sensibilities of the other much older recordings of the work that I have. The performance is clean and bright and less affected by vibrato and glissando, resulting in a sharply beautiful rendition in which every note is clear. This has, in a very short time, become my favourite recording of this work.

Ketil Hvoslef was born in Bergen in Norway and changed his name from Sæverud, adopting his mother’s maiden name, after his fortieth birthday. This he did in an effort to stop any confusion that might occur between the music of himself and his father. The Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra came as a result of the oboist on this recording, David Friedemann Strunck, asking Hvoslef to compose a work for him after he had taken part in another of the composer’s orchestral works. The concerto begins quietly with a low rumble before four pizzicato notes on the strings act as a kind of herald for the oboe. The instrument slowly enters the fray before echoing the four note motif. By this time I was hooked. This is followed by various sections of different tempos with swirling strings and strong melodic lines. The oboe takes a strong lead in driving the music forward before this single movement work fades away as quietly as it began. This is a wonderful concerto, one which if triggered by the Mozart keeps this aspect subliminal. It is clearly a modern work: at one point a four note descending scale briefly reminds me of Philip Glass. This is however, no minimalist work, but one with a strong melodic line and one which the listener should not be afraid of. Its strong musical drive makes the concerto very approachable. I am already looking to invest in more of Ketil Hvoslef’s music.

Like his son, Harald Sæverud was also born in Bergen and is regarded as one of the most important Norwegian composers after Grieg. He is remembered for his incidental music to Peer Gynt and his nine symphonies, with numbers 5, 6 and 7, known as his ‘war symphonies’, being composed in direct response to the German occupation of Norway during the Second World War. His music became something of a rallying cry for his countrymen. It could be described as late or even post-romantic, with his emphasis on the ‘Norwegian style’ earning him praise, especially at home. He was honoured with a knighthood in the order of Saint Olaf for his services to music and his country. The Oboe Concerto dates from 1938 and is deeply rooted in the romantic tradition but with modernist tendencies. Its three movements offer the soloist some great virtuosic passages. The Rondo amoroso is the composer's arrangement for chamber orchestra of one of his many piano pieces - a lovely lilting work. An earlier recording on BIS is reviewed here and here.

The playing of David Friedemann Strunck, who is the principal oboist with the Oslo Philharmonic, is excellent throughout and shows every nuance of this music. He is backed by some exceptional playing, both by the solo quartet and the orchestra itself. It has all been captured in wonderful sound, making this disc most interesting and worthwhile.

Stuart Sillitoe



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