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Strauss: Oboe Concerto, Wind Serenade, Wind Sonatina No. 2 - Ogrintchouk, Nelsons

Strauss: Oboe Concerto, Wind Serenade, Wind Sonatina No. 2 - Ogrintchouk, Nelsons

BIS  BIS-2163

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Strauss: Oboe Concerto, Wind Serenade, Wind Sonatina No. 2

Alexei Ogrintchouk (oboe)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Andris Nelsons (conductor)


Despite his advanced age and the chaos surrounding him, Richard Strauss remained highly productive well into the 1940s. As the Second World War was coming to an end in 1944-45, the eighty-year-old composer was working on his Oboe Concerto and Sonatina No. 2 for winds, as well as the Metamorphosen for strings. While the latter work was an explicit response to the destruction Strauss was witnessing, in the Concerto and the Sonatina the composer seemed to be turning his mind away from the events surrounding him. There is a pastoral quality to the oboe concerto, with a highly tuneful solo part and more than occasional touches of nostalgia for the 18th century.

Similarly, Strauss headed the score of the sonatina with a dedication ‘to the spirit of the immortal Mozart at the end of a life full of thankfulness’. To an extent, one might say that Strauss at the end of his life returned to the musical models of his youth. It is therefore fitting that these two works frame the Serenade in E flat major for wind ensemble, composed more than sixty years earlier in the tradition of entertainment music by Schubert and Mendelssohn. Alexei Ogrintchouk, one of today’s leading oboists, has proven himself in previous recordings for BIS ranging from Bach to Nikos Skalkottas and Antal Doráti. With sterling support from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons, he here makes light of the considerable difficulties of the solo part of the oboe concerto, and also directs his colleagues from the orchestra’s wind section in the works for wind ensemble.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - July 5, 2017

I can hardly think of anyone else than Ogrintchouk, shouldered by Andris Nelsons at the rostrum and his own colleagues from the RCO, to be more competent for an exemplary rendition of Strauss’ Oboe Concerto. Indeed, the soloist must be a musical acrobat who doesn’t need to breathe, at least so it seems. Had this been a live concert, we would have been breathless by its sight alone. But even though we cannot see if and when the soloist is able to breathe during the lengthy virtuoso passages, listening to Ogrintchouk is enough to realize what a exceptional technician he is.

But as if that isn’t enough, he also convinces as far as the musical aspect is concerned. Ergo, there are no sounds like one might associate with a pressure cooker or an overheated kettle, but, instead, always producing a lighthearted tone of sunshine and ‘spielerei’, naturally befitting Strauss’ ‘Indian Summer’, as this concerto is often described, and rightly so.

Ogrintchouk, under Valery Gergiev first oboist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, took over the post of principal oboist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in August 2005. He is at the same time a sought after soloist, recording amongst others extensively for BIS and Pentatone while widely performing on the international concert podiums as soloist and conductor. This brilliant 'Jack of All Trades' is not the first principal to tackle this devilishly difficult concerto. At the end of the Second World War, an American Soldier/oboeist, John de Lancie, asked Strauss to compose a concerto for oboe, which the composer flatly refused. However, Strauss did in the end compose the concerto. Although it was premiered in Zurich, Switzerland, he subsequently decided to grant Lancie permission to play it in America where and as often as he liked. And, yes, Lancie was, in peace time, the Principal Oboe at the Pittsburgh Symphony.

The extensive liner notes give -as usual with BIS- lots of interesting information to which I’m happy to refer. Also as regards the two additional, substantial pieces, The Serenade dating from a much earlier period in his life and the Sonatina composed when he had decided that his productive time was up, but could not resist, being in fact a comp-aholic, doing it ‘to keep himself busy’. Almost 40 minutes of ‘Frolic Workshop’. And that is how it sounds and played, with all the Brio it deserves. The Serenade is better known than the Sonatina, but the two are likewise scarce in the Concert Hall. On record they make for a useful combination, but so far only limitedly available in RBCD. It’s good to have them both here on record in a performance that leaves nothing to be wished for. This is an opportunity not to be missed.

In conclusion: All in all a very welcome addition to the Hi-Res catalogue and, to my mind and taste, in comparison certainly much more rewarding than what is thus far available in this format.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandie, France.

Copyright © 2017 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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Comments (6)
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Comment by hiredfox - May 9, 2017 (1 of 6)

What's Robert been conjuring up now, RCO on BIS and not their own label? Usually guest conductors are published on the Horizon series of recordings.

Having said that there has not been much from RCO Live of late with their new chief conductor, of course he may not be fully in post yet.

Comment by Wolfspaw - July 5, 2017 (2 of 6)

As I explained in more detail in the Lohengrin thread, I am not sure that RCO Live = RCO Editions.

RCO Editions is an IPad app that's being replaced by videos posted directly by the RCO on their website.

I like BIS, and I have praised BIS, BUT if one of the world's greatest orchestra's is going stop producing their own physical releases, I would much prefer Pentatone or Channel Classics.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 6, 2017 (3 of 6)

Triggered by several suggestive, pertinent and brilliant remarks I contacted ‘the horse’s mouth’ and was confirmed that RCO Editions is now dead and that RCO Live lives on as before.

Comment by hiredfox - July 9, 2017 (4 of 6)

Good news as we (SACD junkies) live in uncertain and puzzling times.

Hi-res it seems has become all the rage yet labels abandon SACD. You couldn't make that up!

Comment by William Hecht - July 10, 2017 (5 of 6)

Well John, I guess that as more and more people accept downloads as their primary source of new recordings we optical disc dinosaurs are increasingly threatened with extinction. I may not like that but at least I understand it. The part that makes me nuts is the resurrection of the lp. I still have the gear, but I don't understand why anyone would voluntarily put themselves through the ordeal if there's an alternative on sacd. At 70 I've been collecting since the days when "dual inventory" meant that a vinyl disc was released in both mono and stereo pressings, and the sacd, while not perfect, is the best physical medium by a large margin. The abandonment of sacd by the major companies has kept it a niche market thereby keeping production costs higher than rbcd, rendering pressing capacity uncertain, making it harder for the independents to make a profit, and depriving most of us of hi-res recordings by many of today's finest artists. Great job, guys. As we used to say in the Bronx "oy vey ist mir".

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - July 12, 2017 (6 of 6)

Bill,
You are touching on problems which I share. People seem to have forgotten what a hassle LP’s were. A sharp object being thrown to and fro in a narrow gorge trying to follow the warps of the two stereo sides, stamping over rocks (the small dust particles at the bottom) and when the amplitude of the signal grows having difficulty not to jump to the next or the previous groove, depending on centrifugal force correction. And that’s not even the worst part. I can’t remember how many discs have been turned useless by my off-spring by mishandling the arm and needle, or by simply stamping on the wooden floor or crashing against the table on which the turntable was mounted. Besides, how many stuff didn’t we need to clean ‘m up.
The glorious analogue sound? Yes, for a couple of times until wear and tear set in, scratches preventing the pick-up to follow the groove, the endless crackles and pops….. etc. The new vinyl rage is, as I prefer to see it, for newbies with no recollection of its nasty past, and - sorry you guys - the cult crowd. The gear may now be better (at a huge price) and the quality of the discs maybe too, but I’m with you wholeheartedly as far as the blessings of Super Audio CD’s are concerned.
For Hi-Res downloads, there is a major drawback. Not only does one like the physical product (although some download sites allow you to burn a personal copy) but one also misses the booklet with background info and timings and that sort of thing. It’s downloadable as well, but printing is a head ache, viz. almost impossible in the same handy format that fits in the jewel box with the ordinary printer most of us have.
My bottom line: I’ll hold on to SACD in multi-channel as long as I can and the producers will allow. There’s nothing better, yet.