ALBINONI: Oboe Concertos, Vol. 2 (Alison Alty/ Anthony Camden/ Chris Craker/ John Georgiadis/ London Virtuosi) (Naxos: 8.553002)
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Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (1671 - 1751)
Oboe Concerti, Op. 7, Nos. 2, 3, 8 & 9, and Op. 9, No.6
String Concerto, Op. 7, No.1
Sinfonia in G major
The oboe, perfected in France around the middle of theseventeenth century, gained acceptance in Venice during the 1690s. The first knownVenetian operas to include a part for it dated from 1692, and by 1696 at the latest it hadbeen heard at the Basilica of San Marco, which two years later recruited its firstpermanent player of the oboe. Several other oboists of note established themselves in thecity, and the four ospedaligrandi, the charitable institutions caring for foundlings, orphans and thedestitute, added the instrument to the teaching curriculum.
It was logical, given Italy's - and, indeed, Venice's- pioneering r??le in the development of the concerto, that sooner or later the firstconcerti with parts for oboes would be written. The big question was how, if at all,should they differ in style and form from violin concerti? For Vivaldi, as for mostItalian composers, the problem was easily resolved. In his hands the oboe becomes a kindof ersatz violin. To be sure, he takes care not to exceed the normal compass of theinstrument (running from the D above Middle C to the D two octaves higher), remembers toinsert pauses for breathing and avoids over-abrupt changes of register, but the solo partstill seems remarkably violinistic - as Vivaldi himself tacitly acknowledged when, on morethan one occasion, he prescribed the violin as an alternative to the oboe.
It was left to Vivaldi's important Venetian contemporary,Tomaso Albinoni, to find another way of treating the oboe in a concerto. Apart from beinga capable violinist, Albinoni was a singing teacher married to an operatic diva. Hisexperience of writing operas and cantatas decisively affected the way in which heapproached melody and instrumentation. His concerti equate the oboe not with a violin butwith the human voice in an aria. Conjunct movement and small intervals are generallypreferred to wide skips. In opening orchestral passages the oboe does not double the firstviolin (as in Vivaldi concerti) but bides its time until its solo entry or else suppliesan independent line. The opening solo idea is often presented twice - the first timeabortively, the second time with a normal continuation. This twofold presentation is adevice borrowed straight from the operatic aria of the time.
Albinoni describes these works as concerti 'with' rather than'for' oboe. The difference is significant. Whereas in a Vivaldi oboe concerto the primeaim is to show off the capability of the soloist, here the oboe is the partner rather thanthe dominator of the first violin - and even the second violin is not excluded from thediscourse. The spirit of give and take that exists between the treble instruments lendsthese works a character that reminds one of chamber music.
Albinoni's first set of Concertia cinque with parts for one or two oboes, published in Amsterdam as his Opus 7 in 1715, has the distinction of being thefirst such collection by an Italian composer ever published. The composer dedicated themto a local nobleman and amateur musician, Giovanni Donato Correggio. The works are dividedinto four groups, each of which begins with a concerto for strings (one of these, No.11,contains passages for a solo violin), continues with a concerto for two oboes and finisheswith one for a single oboe. Whereas the concerti with one oboe are fully mature inconception, those with two oboes are more varied, as if Albinoni, in 1715, had not yetdecided how to structure them. Certainly, the two-oboe works, which are all in thetraditional trumpet keys of C major and D major, carry strong traces of the trumpetsonatas that Bolognese composers, in particular, had written at the end of the previouscentury.
The second concerto of Opus 7 is notable for its short slow movement, forstrings only, which is a fine essay in chromatic harmony and quasi-vocal polyphony. No.8has a finale in jig rhythm that, remarkably enough, is his only surviving concertomovement in Vivaldian ritornello form. The sixth concerto from Opus 9
(1722), Albinoni's sequel to Opus 7, shows how he later came to model his two-oboeconcerti on those with one oboe, greatly expanding the dimensions and elaborating theform. The three concerti with single oboe (Opus 7, Nos. 3, 6 and 9) all have finales in 3/8 or 6/8 thatexploit Albinoni's favourite rhythmic device of hemiola (where twice three units becomesthrice two units or the reverse).
The present recording also includes the first concerto of theset, for strings alone. This is in the style of an operatic overture (sinfonia), in whichthe noise and bustle of the first movement is designed to silence a restive audience. Theshort second movement is fused to the opening movement, again in imitation of the sinfoniagenre. The recording starts with a genuine sinfonia, thematically related to the concerto Opus 7, No.4,which was taken back to Dresden c.1717 by the violinist Johann Georg Pisendel. The Saxonmusicians liked to add wind parts to the orchestral works in their repertoire, as shown inthe present performance. Note the typically Albinonian fugue, insistently cheerful, thatends the work.
1995 Michael Talbot
Anthony Camden is solo oboist with the London Virtuosi, havingserved as principal oboe in the London Symphony Orchestra from 1972 to 1988. His solorecordings with the London Symphony Orchestra include the Bach Concerto for violin andoboe, with Yehudi Menuhin, the Oboe Concerto by Grace Williams and a video of musicby Bach with Claudio Abbado. He founded the London Virtuosi in 1972 with James Galway andJohn Georgiadis and the ensemble thereafter toured widely in the Americas, throughoutEurope and in the Far East. Anthony Camden himself, the son of a very distinguishedBritish bassoonist, has given master classes at many of the most famous conservatories andschools of music and is currently Dean of Music at the Hong Kong Academy for PerformingArts and an Honorary Professor of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In addition to some400 recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, his recordings with the London Virtuosiinclude Mozart's Oboe Quartet, a Telemann Trio for flute, oboe and harpsichord with JamesGalway and for RCA Haydn's Divertimento foroboe and strings. Anthony Camden plays on a Howarth Oboe.
Alison Alty first studied in London with Malcolm Messiterbefore gaining a Bachelor of Music (Hons) degree at Manchester University. She thenstudied with Anthony Camden at the Guildhall School of Music. After being awarded a doubledistinction at the National Centre for Orchestral Studies she worked regularly as anoboist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and theLondon Mozart Players. She is currently working as a free-lance oboist both with largeorchestras and also chamber ensembles.
The London Virtuosi
The London Virtuosi was founded in 1972 by Anthony Camden,James Galway and principal string players from the London Symphony Orchestra. In the 21years of its life the London Virtuosi has performed in all the major countries in theworld -USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, Japan etc. It has been the resident orchestrain Festivals in Britain and Spain and made many recordings. In recent years the LondonVirtuosi has specialised in performing all the Brandenburg Concertos and a largerepertoire of Baro