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Tomaso ALBINONI (1671 - 1750/51): "Favourite Melodies"

Concert Royal Köln
Dir: Karla Schröter

rec: May 3 - 5, 2021, Schleiden/Eifel, Schlosskirche
musicaphon - M 56989 (© 2021) (76'22")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Tomaso ALBINONI: Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in B flat; Concerto for oboe, strings and bc in d minor, op. 9,2; Concerto for oboe, 2 violins and bc in G; Concerto for trumpet, 3 oboes and 2 bassoons in C; Sonata for oboe and bc in C; Sonata à 6 for trumpet, strings and bc in C; Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Prelude and fugue in b minor (after Tomaso Albinoni) (BWV 923 & 951)a; Johann Gottfried WALTHER (1684-1748): Concerto del Sig.r Tomaso Albinoni appropriato all'organo in Fa

Gábor Hegyi, trumpet; Karla Schröter, Ulruch Ehret, Eva Grießhaber, oboe; Cordula Caso, Margit Baranyai, bassoon; Makoto Akatsu, Frauke Heiwolt, violin; Isidro Albarreal Delgado, viola; Michael Hochreither, cello, basse de violon; Martina Binnig, violone; Willi Kronenberg, harpsichord, organ (soloa)

When Johann Georg Pisendel, violinist in the Dresden court orchestra, was in Venice in 1716, in the retinue of the Saxon electoral prince Friedrich August, he was keen to meet the leading Italian composers of his time. One was Antonio Vivaldi, the other Tomaso Albinoni. Whereas Vivaldi is one of the most frequently-performed composers of the baroque era in our time, Albinoni does not appear on the programmes of public concerts that often, and over many years of reviewing, relatively few discs with his music have landed on my desk. That is quite surprising, as he has left a substantial oeuvre, which could have been considerably larger if not that much - especially in the field of opera - had been lost.

Albinoni was born and died in Venice. Just like the Marcello brothers, he presented himself as a dilettante, meaning that he wasn't a professional composer and didn't compose for a living. His father was a stationer and manufacturer of playing cards who owned several shops in Venice. Tomaso, being the eldest son, was supposed to take part in his father's business, and so he did. But he also was able to study music; with whom is not known. When in 1709 his father died Tomaso left the business to his two younger brothers in order to spend all his time to music. From then on he called himself musico di violino. Since in 1721 one of his father's creditors took over the shop he must have earned a living from his musical activities.

It seems that especially the music with one or two oboe parts has received the interest of performers. He published two sets of twelve concertos for one or two oboes, strings and basso continuo in Amsterdam as his Op. 7 (1715) and Op. 9 (1722) respectively. Albinoni was among the first Italians who composed for this relatively new instrument, which had been developed in France, and from the last decade of the 17th century onwards gradually disseminated across Europe. It found a fertile ground in Germany, where many aristocrats were keen to imitate everything that was French, out of admiration for the splendour at Louis XIV's court. In Italy it took a little longer before it established itself.

In his concertos the oboe is often part of the string texture, as in the Concerto in d minor, op. 9,2 that Karla Schröter included in her recording of 'Favourite Melodies' by Albinoni. The Op. 9 concertos were written at the time Albinoni was at the court in Munich and were dedicated to the Prince-Elector Maximilian Emanuel. At that time one of the oboists at the Munich court was Jacob Loeillet, a member of a dynasty of wind players and composers from the southern Netherlands. This piece is the only one from a published collection that is included here. This disc is especially interesting for the pieces that have been preserved in manuscript.

The disc opens with the Concerto in B flat, which has come down to us incomplete. Only two oboe parts and a part for viola have been preserved, and for this recording it has been turned in a concerto for oboe and strings. The liner-notes are a little economical with regard to exactly what has been done to make this version possible. Karla Schröter, in her liner-notes, mentions the possibility that it was conceived as a piece for oboe band, but she does not believe that this is the case. An example of such a piece closes the programme. The Concerto in C is scored for trumpet, three oboes and two bassoons. Such pieces were meant for 'open air' performance, without the participation of a harpsichord, and were quite popular at courts in Germany. In recent years several recordings of such music have been released, for instance from the pen of Georg Philipp Telemann. This piece has been found in Germany, and one wonders whether this scoring is the original one. Especially the last movement does sound familiar to my ears. Could it be an arrangement of a piece for an other scoring, made by some German court musician? Oboe ensembles as we hear here seem not to have been common in Italy.

Another piece from a German source is the Concerto in G, scored for transverse flute or oboe, two violins and basso continuo. This scoring is typical for the Italian genre of the concerto da camera as we know it from the oeuvre of Vivaldi. The first violin sometimes gets involved in a dialogue with the wind instrument, and on other occasions the two violins take the role of the bass.

Albinoni has written a number of sonatas for violin and basso continuo, but the Sonata in C is his only work for oboe and basso continuo, again found in a German source. Its form is notable: it is in four movements, which suggests that it is modelled after the sonata da chiesa or sonata da camera of Corelli, but the third movement is a bourlesque, which is quite different from the rest of the piece. Ms Schröter suggests it is a kind of programme music.

The Sonata à 6 in C for trumpet, strings and basso continuo is the earliest piece in the programme; it has been preserved in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna. It is in four movements, and the strings are divided into five parts. As was so often the case in pieces with a solo part for a horn or a trumpet, the slow movements are for strings alone. In the fast movements the trumpet gets involved in a dialogue with the strings.

The two keyboard arrangements by Johann Sebastian Bach and Johann Gottfried Walther attest to the status of Albinoni. Bach several times took themes of Albinoni for keyboard fugues; the pieces performed here are arrangements or reworkings of the original material. Bach first became acquainted with Albinoni's music through copies of concertos from his trio sonatas Op. 1, made by his brother Johann Christoph in 1705. Willi Kronenberg plays the second of the two versions of BWV 951. It is preceded by the Prelude BWV 923, although the connection is probably not intended by Bach, whose authorship is not beyond doubt anyway. Walther's piece is more like the transcriptions Bach made of concertos by Vivaldi and other Italian composers. Walther does not add something of his own, but rather reduces the material in order to make it playable on the organ. These two keyboard works are useful additions to this programme devoted to Albinoni, and proof that Pisendel was not the only one who held Albinoni in high esteem.

Karla Schröter is a fine oboist, and I like her performances here. She adds stylish ornamentation where it is needed, and the tempi are well chosen. The Concerto in C for oboe ensemble is particularly nice. The strings are doing well, but I would have liked some stronger dynamic contrasts. Willi Kronenburg is responsible for the excellent interpretations of the keyboard works. This disc is a fine and valuable addition to the Albinoni discography.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

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