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Bach: Oboenwerke, Volume 2 - Utkin

Bach: Oboenwerke, Volume 2 - Utkin

Caro Mitis  CM 0032003

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber


J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major BWV 1066, Sonata for Oboe and Harpsichord in G minor BWV 1030b, Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D minor (trans. BWV 1043), Italian Concerto for Harpsichord in F major BWV 971

Alexei Utkin (oboe)
Hermitage Chamber Orchestra

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Recording Producer: Michael Serebryanyi
Balance Engineer: Erdo Groot
Recording Engineer: Roger de Schot
Editor: Carl Schuurbiers

Recorded: 23-27.09.2003 5th Studio of The Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (RTR) Moscow, Russia
Reviews (1)
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Review by John Miller - February 27, 2009

A warm welcome for the second volume in this outstanding series. This time the Hermitage Chamber Orchestra with their oboe soloist and director Alexei Utkin play one of Bach's major orchestral works in which a pair of oboes are prominent throughout.

The Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major BWV 1066 comes from a set of 4, probably composed between 1725 and 1739 in Leipzig. It is a sequence of dance forms in the French manner, and gets a performance here quite the equal of the best on record, whether on modern instruments or period ones. As usual, the HCO ensemble is impeccable, rhythms are lightly sprung and infectious, and their internal balance is remarkable, with all Bach's wonderfully interesting inner and bass parts so clear in the polyphony that one can easily follow one or the other without loosing the overall effect. I particularly loved the double-dotted Overture, and was very grateful that all the repeats were played, as the playing is is so stylish and free. The ritornello, for example, is utter delight as the bassoon of Andrei Snegiryov joins with the oboes and violin in an astonishingly precisely-executed virtuoso running part to great comic effect. The dance movements follow one another with only a brief gap, so the whole work sounds almost like a Baroque symphony.

A change to simple chamber music textures is heralded by the Sonata for Oboe and Harpsichord in G minor BWV 1030b. This exists now only in a complete version in B minor for flute; the original version in G minor has only the fully written-out harpsichord part, with the solo part missing. Utkin believes that the original instrument was the oboe, so he has adapted the existing flute part. The minor key music is soulful indeed, and suits the oboe timbre very well. The work ends with a rousing Presto which brings some cheeky virtuosity from Utkin.

Another transcription of Utkin's appears in the Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D minor (trans. BWV 1043), based on the famous 2 violin concerto in the same key. While purists might cringe, the result is simply wonderful as the inspired execution by the players shows. The slow movement, decked with a flowing, lilting rhythm, is the epitome of a love duet and blossoms richly. It is deeply moving and superbly natural in execution. The finale is a whirl of vital energy which puts both soloists on their mettle. On the evidence of this performance, which again is the equal of the best recorded, I would be very surprised if Bach had not at some time tried the violin-oboe combination himself.

The final item is added as a bonus for both audiophiles and music lovers - and perhaps as a relief from a lot of oboe tone. Anna Karpenko, HCO's harpsichordist, enters the studio door on the left of the platform and strides to the instrument to begin Bach's Italian Concerto for Harpsichord in F major BWV 971, and a fine performance it is. The realistic sound effects are best heard in the 5.0 surround mix.

As usual the recording by Polyhymnia in the Moscow Radio Studio 5 is superb in its clarity and focus. It captures the transparent sound and lightness of playing of the HCO in an entirely convincing way.

In the extensive booklet, another essay by Roman Nassonov is less successful than that of the first volume. It tries to persuade us that the works are somehow bound up with the Baroque trio idea - what the often terrible English beetle translation refers to as "Trio-Thinking". The English translation in the first volume was excellent, but here we have ludicrous lines like "The oboe as if 'touches up' one of the main melodic lines of the concerto" - and worse. I would advise readers just to listen to the music, which speaks most eloquently for itself.

Again an unmissable issue, full of joie de vivre and a life-enhancing concert which exudes charm, wit and poise.

Copyright © 2009 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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