Bach: Oboenwerke, Volume 3 - Alexei Utkin
Caro Mitis CM 0012004
Classical - Chamber
J.S. Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D major BWV 1069, Oboe Concerto in D minor BWV 1059, Orchestral Suite No. 2 in A minor BWV 1067 (trans. Utkin)
Alexei Utkin (oboe)
Hermitage Chamber Orchestra
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Review by John Miller - February 27, 2009
This final volume of Caromitis' excellent series brings yet more riches. The modern instrument Hermitage Chamber Orchestra is augmented with extra players for the Orchestral Suite No 4 in D major (BWV 1069), sporting three trumpets, three oboes, three violins and drums. The band performs with their usual buoyant dance rhythms and flair for Baroque style. Textures are open so that all the inner voices can be followed: the ear catches Bach's marvellous shifting harmonies within the polyphonic fabric, following them to their satisfying cadences. Listen, for example to the bassoon part, superbly articulated and the most decorative aspect of the continuo. This is Bach playing almost without peer. The final Réjouissance brings the Suite to an exciting festal conclusion with its strutting detached pulse.
Another 'lost' work, the Concerto for Oboe, Strings and Continuo in D minor (BWV 1059r) is a further reconstruction with a complicated history (e.g. there is another version in E minor for flute) which is rather obscurely discussed in the disc's booklet. It gives us another opportunity to savour Alexei Utkin's phenomenal breathing control (brought about by special techniques) and the plangent tone of his specially-built F. Lorée oboe with its extended range. In the first movement he seems to be able to spin impossibly long lines without pause for breath, all beautifully nuanced, and one of Bach's greatest melodies in the slow movement reaps the full benefit of his gentle, creamy tone - pure balm for the ears and beautifully accompanied by tender ministrations from the strings of the HCO.
One would have been surprised indeed if Utkin had not made a transcription of the flute part which dominates the Orchestral Suite no 2 in B minor (BWV 1067), and here it is, transposed to A minor for the oboe. Some might miss the sweetness and light tone of the flute, but the music is based in the minor, for which the more serious tone of the oboe is a good match. Once again, this is an outstanding performance by all, including an astonishing Badinerie, where the oboe's articulation at speed makes up for the airiness of the flute. We are indeed fortunate to be able to choose which instrument to listen to in this lovely work.
Suffice it to say that the DSD recording by Polyhymnia is once more state-of-the-art in its natural portrayal of the players in their acoustic environment. It is exciting to hear the trumpets and drums stir the acoustic of Studio 5 of the Russian TV and Radio Broadcasting Company in Moscow, and to hear Utkin moving the bell of his instrument to and fro, thus slightly changing tone and volume.
There is another long booklet essay by Roman Nassonev, this time in a far better English translation than in Volume 2, with Russian and German included. However, he gets bogged down in a flowery and conjectural didactic about Bach and religion, and again I would urge the reader to listen to the music express itself instead.
Bach lovers should be indebted to the consummate artistry of musicians and engineers alike for this three disc set. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2009 John Miller and HRAudio.net