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Forgotten Treasures, Vol 07: Virtuoso Oboe Concertos - Niesemann / Willens

Forgotten Treasures, Vol 07: Virtuoso Oboe Concertos - Niesemann / Willens

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 029

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical


Johann Christian Fischer: Oboe Concerto No. 1 in C major, Oboe Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Oboe Concerto No. 7 in F major, Carl Stamitz: Concerto in B major

Michael Niesemann (oboe)
Kölner Akademie
Michael Alexander Willens (conductor)

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - June 27, 2015

Michael Niesemann is a fine and versatile oboe player. And not just ‘baroque’; he plays sax and does not eschew jazz and cross over. But 10 years with Musica Antigua Koeln and principal at The English Baroque Soloists puts him nonetheless firmly in the baroque scene. On this disk he shows his conspicuous talent in oboe concerti of so-called ‘B-rated’ composers. Such ratings have to be taken with a pinch of salt, because who are these ‘raters’ anyway?

The charm of this series is that music that has not been in the limelight for a while or hardly at all, is brought back to the forefront by those who think it merits more attention, whether it be, in this particular case, Michael Willens, the recording company, ARS Produktion, or the soloist, Michael Niesemann. I suppose that in the final analysis, the idea is that the selection is theirs, leaving the privilege of the ultimate rating to the listener.

Here we go: First of all, little is known about J.C. Fischer as a composer. Reason for me to delve somewhat deeper. My 1982 edition of the very detailed French Larousse de la musique did not even mention him (now it does). Probably the best information is in the liner notes, researched and written by William Thauer.

Fischer’s rating agents of his time lived in England where he, according to a biography by Joseph Stevenson ‘failed to win some available musical positions’. It is not clear if this was linked to his being a composer or a performing musician or both. Back in Germany Mozart, too, is said to have, on second thoughts, a non-favourable opinion of him. However, the 'English’ J.C. Bach, used some of his oboe concertos for keyboard arrangements, whereas Mozart composed a set of Twelve Variations in C on a Minuet of Johann Christian Fischer (K.179 [189a]). So, it could not have been all that bad. Whatever the case, Fischer fell out of grace after his death. Few recordings exist, mostly by Erato on vinyl, cassette and some on baroque omnibus CD’s (Source: French national library).

What about his compositions? It may be safely assumed that Fischer, a confirmed oboe player, wrote his 10 (7 according to other sources) concerti for personal use. It seems logical that in these concerti virtuosity comes first, with the soloist dominating the scene. Some will be thrilled about that, but others might well find it a bit much. Perhaps one should not play all of them one after the other.

That said, had I ever known whether or not Haydn had written a solo concerto for the oboe, I might have taken Fischer’s first concerto for Haydn in his younger years. If not Joseph, then surely Michael. But on repeated listening, I must confess that none of the here presented concerti can match Haydn’s (Joseph) oboe concerto In C, Hob. VIIg. (1800?). Fischer’s output is not always consistent. If virtuosity is the main or even the only purpose of writing a concerto, then there is the risk of running out of inspiration or paying less innovating attention to the orchestration.

Does that disqualify the recording of Fischer’s oboe concerti? Not at all. The idea, as I take it and said so above, was not to compete but to rediscover what had been forgotten. And in that sense, it does enrich the catalogue. All said and done, one cannot but admit that Fisher gives us a fair deal of virtuosity against a background of pleasantly composed material with some unexpected, delicious turns.

Carl Stamitz is a different cup of tea. Certainly not an obscure composer. His works have always been programmed and many recordings exist. The thing is, however, that he did not compose a concerto for oboe. At least not according to the catalogue. So, the forgotten treasure here is that an oboe version of what had been published as a clarinet concerto was found amongst a set of manuscripts of a copyist which may have been the original. By choosing to include and place his concerto in between the ones of Fischer, one notes that in comparison differences are small, thus lending credit to the quality of Fischer’s, but at the same time it clearly shows that Stamitz, who was not an oboist himself, did not strive for the same, almost excessive bravura in the solo parts, making for more relaxed listening.

The worst thing that could happen to sub-top composers is that their spiritual fruits are being sold through a second rate merchant. Not so through the offices of maestro Willems. He and his band keep things well balanced and firmly under control with remarkable result.

Conclusion: this disk is surely worth a recommandation for all enterprising oboe players and also for those who have a soft spot for this instrument. Others may, and not only out of curiosity, want to prospect it.

The stars tell you if the music is well played and well recorded and in that respect I have no hesitation whatsoever. As for the music I refer to my comments.

Normandy, France

Copyright © 2015 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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