As oboe virtuoso Albrecht Mayer explains, "the oboe was omnipresent in the musical life of Mozart's day. There were countless outstanding wind players who were active in Austria and Bohemia during the second half of the 18th century, with the result that many of the composers associated with Viennese Classicism wrote concertos for the oboe, most of them musicians whose names have fallen into near or total oblivion." Thus, the theme of the present album, in which Mr. Mayer and the Chamber Academy of Potsdam play four wind concertos for oboe or English horn from composers most of us have never heard of: Lost and now found. The concertos are pleasant, to be sure, and obviously well played, but there is usually a reason why some music loses favor with the public and falls into obscurity.
First up on the program is the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in C major by Franz Anton Hoffmeister (1754-1812). Like the other concertos in the set, Hoffmeister's is in a conventional three-movement arrangement: fast, slow, fast. There is a certain Haydn-like charm to the music, which displays ample opportunities for Mayer's oboe to find a sweet, fluid voice, especially in the Adagio.
After that we find the Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra in C major by Joseph Fiala (1748-1816). The English horn, the tenor member of the oboe family, makes a nice contrast in this piece to the sound of the oboe in the others. Otherwise, I'm not sure Fiala's concerto is one I'll be returning to very often. While undoubtedly friendly and likeable, with a wonderfully flowing Adagio cantabile, it isn't exactly memorable.
Mayer concludes the program with the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in F major by Jan Antonin Kozeluh (1738-1814). With the Kozeluh work, it isn't until we get to the final Rondo that we get anything worthy of being rediscovered. Here, we find a lovely, catchy tune that bounces along in good cheer.
Mayer's playing is exemplary. He is always spot on and never tries to overshadow his accompaniment. And that accompaniment from the Potsdam Chamber Orchestra conducted by Mayer is also spot on: precise, sympathetic, always right with Mayer as though a single instrument at the soloist-leader's disposal.
Recording producer Christoph Franke and engineer Martin Eichberg made the album at Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, in January 2013. We get full, rich sound from the orchestra and a realistic presence from the oboe and English horn. Dimensionality could be better, though; there's not a lot of depth to the ensemble nor much air around the instruments. Fortunately, the engineers have recorded Mayer's solo parts at a moderate enough distance that he doesn't completely dominate the show by being too close up. Overall, it's smooth, well-balanced sound, with a modest degree of transparency and makes for easy listening.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: