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"Un Oboe nel 'Teatro degli Affetti'"

Omar Zoboli, oboe
Ensemble Il Falcone

rec: June 2017, Premanico (GE), Chiesa San Lorenzo
Gallo - CD-1508 (© 2017) (65'27")
Liner-notes: E/D/I
Cover, track-list & English liner-notes

Tomaso ALBINONI (1671-1751): Concerto a 5 for oboe, strings and bc in B flat, op. 9,11; Carl Heinrich GRAUN (1703/04 - 1759) / Johann Gottlieb GRAUN (1702/03 - 1771): Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in g minor (GraunWV Cv:XIII,144); Alessandro MARCELLO (1673-1747): Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in d minor (S D935); Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in e minor (TWV 51,e1); Sonata for oboe, viola and bc in c minor (TWV 42,c5)a; Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741): Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in C (RV 450)

Paolo Perrone, Gian Andrea Guerra, violin; Guido De Vecchi, viola (soloa); Daniele Bovo, cello; Federico Bagnasco, violone; Paola Cialdella, harpsichord

The oboe made a relatively late appearance at the European music scene. It was developed around 1660 by the Hotteterre family in France, a dynasty of instrument makers and musicians. It was soon to be included in various royal ensembles. As everything French held a great attraction for monarchs and aristocrats across Europe the oboe was soon disseminated to other countries and was included in orchestral and chamber music groups.

Double-reeds, like the oboe, were almost exclusively played by professional musicians. The preparation of reeds was a time-consuming activity whose technique took years to hone and was fiercely guarded by musicians themselves. As a consequence not that much music was published, which was specifically intended for the oboe. In particular collections of sonatas were aimed at the growing market of amateurs, and as only a few of them were able to play the oboe, this instrument was mostly mentioned as one of the alternatives, alongside instruments such as the recorder and the transverse flute. The same was probably true for concertos: Giuseppe Sammartini performed for many years in London as a virtuosic oboist, but hardly any concerto of his pen has been preserved, and no concerto was published. It is safe to assume that he composed his concertos for his own use.

Whereas the oboe was disseminated across Germany in the last quarter of the 17th century, the instrument made its first appearance in Italy only towards the end of the century. In 1698 the chapel of San Marco in Venice dismissed its last cornett player; his place was taken by Onofrio Penati, a virtuoso on the oboe, who was paid the highest salary of the entire orchestra. This tells us something about his reputation, but probably also about the appreciation of the new instrument.

The first composers who gave the oboe full attention were Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi. It seems that Albinoni was the first to compose oboe concertos; he certainly was the first to publish such pieces. His Concertos op. 7 came from the press in 1715. This collection comprises twelve concertos for strings, four of which with one and four with two oboe parts. It is notable that he called them Concerti a cinque con violini, oboè, violetta, violoncello e basso continuo. The various parts are treated on equal footing, and the oboe is not singled out as a solo instrument. The same title is used for the second set of twelve concertos, which were published as his op. 9 in 1722. The oboe in Albinoni's concertos is more fully integrated in the musical fabric than in Vivaldi's concertos.

The latter composed 21 oboe concertos. Some of these were certainly written for the girls of the Ospedale della Pietà, among them a certain Pellegrina, nicknamed 'dall'Oboe', who developed into a celebrity. However, it seems likely that one of the main sources of inspiration for Vivaldi's composing of oboe concertos was the virtuoso Johann Christian Richter, a member of the famous Dresden chapel, who was in Venice in 1716/17, alongside his colleagues Johann Georg Pisendel and Jan Dismas Zelenka, in the entourage of Prince Frederick Augustus of Saxony. Vivaldi's earliest oboe concertos may have been written during those years. These were probably included in his Op. 7, which was published in 1720. They are among only a relatively few number of oboe concertos which were printed. The Concerto in C (RV 450) is one of the best-known of them.

Alessandro Marcello's Concerto in d minor is one of the most famous oboe concertos from the baroque period, and in particular the adagio is frequently played. It offers many opportunities for ornamentation; Bach demonstrated how this can be done in his arrangement for harpsichord. It is one of the pieces which documents the influence of Italian music on German composers.

Bach's colleague Telemann had problems with the solo concerto. He complained that technical virtuosity often overshadowed melody and harmony, and therefore he preferred the French style. It is notable that he generally preferred the older type of concerto, in four movements, modelled after the Corellian sonata da chiesa. That is also the case in the Concerto in e minor. The liner-notes suggest that Telemann may have been in Zimmermann's Café in Leipzig. That seems very unlikely: it is only in 1723 that the Collegium Musicum started to perform there every week. At that time Telemann worked in Hamburg as director musices, and as far as I know no visit to Leipzig during his term of office in Hamburg has been documented. It is possible that concertos from his pen were performed by the Collegium Musicum, which from 1729 to the 1740s was directed by Bach.

As in the baroque era there was no formal difference between orchestral and chamber music. Therefore the inclusion of a trio sonata by Telemann fits into this programme. The Sonata in c minor is one of his lesser-known pieces, and the rather unusual combination of oboe and viola is vintage Telemann.

It is also suggested that the Concerto in g minor by Graun may have been performed there. Again, that is impossible to prove. We even don't know which of the Graun brothers is the composer. Most of their compositions are signed with di Graun or del Graun. Johann Gottlieb was a celebrated violinist and composed mostly instrumental music, whereas Carl Heinrich was successful as a tenor and wrote a large number of operas, cantatas and sacred music. Even so, it would be wrong to suggest that all the instrumental works were written by Johann Gottlieb. The numbers (GraunWV) refer to a catalogue of the oeuvre of the Grauns, put together by Christoph Henzel. He made a clear distinction between pieces which can be attributed to Johann Gottlieb (A), Carl Heinrich (B) or one of them (C). The small letter v indicates that the attribution is not 100 percent sure. The oboe concerto is presented here as a piece by Johann Gottlieb, but the catalogue number indicates that the attribution is anything but sure. Stylistically it clearly departs from the 'baroque' idiom of the other concertos. With this concerto we are in a different era.

Omar Zoboli delivers very good performances. Sometimes I found his tone a little too penetrating, but that fits the overall sound of the Ensemble Il Falcone rather well. It has some sharp edges, and is certainly not 'middle of the road'. We should appreciate that: too many ensembles are very much alike. The ensemble plays with one instrument per part. That is one of the options; a larger ensemble is certainly possible.

This disc is a nice mixture of the very familiar and the little-known. It will give you much pleasure.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Il Falcone

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