Vivaldi: Oboe Concertos (CD review)

Alex Klein, oboe; Anthony Newman, New Brandenburg Collegium. Cedille FOUNDation CDR 7003.

As you know, Cedille is a small, Chicago-based record company that specializes in using local talent to produce audiophile-quality discs. However, they also sometimes distribute material they didn't record themselves, issuing it on their mid-priced Cedille FOUNDation label, such as this album of Vivaldi oboe concertos originally released by the Musical Heritage Society in 1995.

Italian priest, violinist, and composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) produced a ton of scores, composed largely while he was a music teacher at the Ospedale dlla Pieta, a home for poor, orphaned, or abandoned girls. His compositions include not only the familiar Four Seasons but over forty-five operas, ninety sonatas, multitudinous choral pieces, and some five-hundred concertos. If many of us tend to think of his work as sounding pretty much alike, especially the concertos, I'd say we have every reason for thinking so. For instance, I had no idea the man wrote as many oboe concertos as he did, over twenty of them, several in dispute. This disc contains eight concertos for oboe and strings, the program totaling about seventy-five minutes.

The soloist here is Alex Klein, a multiple award winner and former principal oboist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, probably the connection to Cedille. He and the New Brandenburg Collegium, a group with which I am unfamiliar, provide lively, entertaining interpretations of the music, Klein's playing wonderfully versatile and virtuosic. He and the ensemble perform these works with great spontaneity and verve. Indeed, I have no idea when the man stops to take a breath, but his style is beautifully fluid, extended, and endlessly dazzling.

Klein's booklet notes comment on these concertos in all likelihood being too difficult for oboists of Vivaldi's day to play, and one listen to the musical gymnastics Klein performs on his oboe confirms the opinion. The music requires the utmost expertise, which Klein just happens to possess.

As for the concertos themselves, well, even though I've heard them a number of times over the years, I admit I could never tell them apart, then or now. If it's of any interest, of the concertos on this disc I prefer the one in C Major, F. VII, No. 6, best of all for its delightful yet mature spirit.

Recorded in September, 1993, at the Performing Arts Center of the State University of New York, the sound is fairly close but with a warm, smooth response. There's a wide stereo spread, with a good dynamic thrust and a reasonably clear midrange. While the high and low ends might have shown greater range and the stage depth could have been more pronounced, these concerns are almost inconsequential when listening to such sparkling performances. The playing and the music make you forget almost everything else.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa