Vivaldi: Pan Flute Concertos (CD review)

Hanspeter Oggier, pan flute; Ensemble Fratres. Brilliant Classics 95078.

We all know that Italian composer, violinist, teacher, and priest Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) wrote hundreds of concertos for various instruments, along with almost countless other compositions. What's more, in the twentieth century, especially, people began transcribing many of his works for other instruments. As a result, you can find Vivaldi's music played on practically every instrument imaginable. Not that there wasn't precedence for this kind of thing in Vivaldi's own Baroque era, where composers themselves would often rewrite their own works for other instruments. I mention all this in preface to the present disc in which pan flutist Hanspeter Oggier performs eight of Vivaldi's concertos (most of them originally written for flute) on the pan flute, with able support from the period-instrument Ensemble Fratres. It makes for unusual and fairly interesting listening.

The pan flute--sometimes referred to as the panflute, the panpipe, panpipes, or Pan's pipes--consists of a row of hollow, closed tubes of varying length, which produce tones by being blown across their upper ends. The pan flute has been around seemingly forever and shows up in one form or another in almost every culture.

According to his bio, "Hanspeter Oggier began studying the panpipes in his home town and in 1996 commenced taking lessons from master panflutist Simion Stanciu 'Syrinx' in Geneva. From 2002, Hanspeter Oggier continued his education in Geneva and Zurich at the Society Suisse de Pedagogie Musicale, and obtained a teaching degree in 2006. A laureate of the Kiefer Hablitzel Foundation in 2007, he acquired an Artist Diploma in Music Performance the following year, and released his first record with Musica nobilis, entitled Arpeggione, in collaboration with Marielle Oggier (flute) and Mathias Clausen (piano). He completed his musical training at the Hochschule Luzern-Musik with a Master of Arts mit Major Performance Klassic Panflote (2010) with flautist Janne Thomsen." Since then he has built a career as a chamber musician and soloist, participating in concerts all over the world.

Hanspeter Oggier
A fascinating part of his bio informs us that "Like the Ensemble Fratres, Hanspeter Oggier is dedicated to integrating as much as possible the characteristics of the common language into the musical language. He derives his inspiration from the commitment of the musicians of the Renaissance and Baroque era to imitate the human voice."

Mr. Oggier's program consists of the Concerto La notte in G minor Op.10/2 for flute, strings and basso continuo; the Concerto in A minor Op. 3/8 for two violins, strings and basso continuo; the Concerto in G major Op. 10/4 for flute, strings and basso continuo; the Concerto in D minor Op. 3/11 for two violins, cello, strings and basso continue; the Concerto Il gardellino in D major Op. 10/3 for flute, strings and basso continuo; the Concerto in A minor for flute, strings and basso continuo; the Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro for strings; and an extract from Nisi Dominus, the Andante for flute, strings and basso continuo.

Yes, much of it sounds alike. That's what you get from Vivaldi; anybody who produced the prodigious body of work he did is bound to include some repetition. If you're not fond of Vivaldi, you might not appreciate so much of his work in one place. However, if you do like Vivaldi, Oggier's handling of it on the pan flute makes for an intriguing diversion, particularly as the panpipe sounds breathier and more open than a conventional flute.

The performances are lively, spirited, without sounding too rushed or frenetic. There's a nice, even flow to the music, a comfortable if somewhat varied rubato, and a sweet spirit all the way around. These may be historical performances, yet neither Oggier nor Ensemble Fratres sound in any way stiff or scholarly. The performers are virtuosic in the animation of their playing and, in essence, create a good deal of fun, which no doubt Vivaldi intended.

My only hesitation in fully liking the album is the sound of the pan flute itself. Its breathiness doesn't project the warmth or richness of either a Baroque or modern flute. It is, in fact, a rather coarse sound in comparison to the flute. Still, the ear adjusts, and, besides, pipes do not feature prominently in all of the music, so we do get a couple of breaks in the agenda, which gives the program variety. Then, too, the place in the proceedings the pan flute probably works best is in the concerto Il gardellino, where the instrument delightfully mimics the sound of a goldfinch. It's quite charming and worth the price of the entire album.

For the Vivaldi fan who has everything, Oggier's disc should provide a pleasant diversion from the usual fare. And there isn't a Season in sight.

Recording engineer Jean-Daniel Noir made the album at the Academia Montis Regalis Onlus, Oratorio di Santa, Croce, Mondovi, Italy in August 2015. The recordist has certainly captured a wide dynamic range, with good impact and a quick transient response. Along with an airy, modestly resonant acoustic that never interferes with the reproduction's transparency, the results sound, if fairly close, impressively realistic.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

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.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simpleminded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

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