ALBINONI: Oboe Concertos, Vol. 3 (Alison Alty/ Anthony Camden/ Chris Craker/ John Georgiadis/ London Virtuosi) (Naxos: 8.553035)
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Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (1671-1751)
Oboe Concerti, Op. 7, Nos. 5,6,11 & 12, and Op. 9, No.12
String Concerto, Op. 7, No.4
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 ospedali grandi, thecharitable institutions caring for foundlings, orphans and the destitute, added theinstrument 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 7in 1715, has the distinction of being the first such collection by an Italian composerever published. The composer dedicated them to a local nobleman and amateur musician,Giovanni Donato Correggio. The works are divided into four groups, each of which beginswith a concerto for strings (one of these, No.11, contains passages for a solo violin),continues with a concerto for two oboes and finishes with one for a single oboe. Whereasthe concerti with one oboe are fully mature in conception, those with two oboes are morevaried, as if Albinoni, in 1715, had not yet decided how to structure them. Certainly, thetwo-oboe works, which are all in the traditional trumpet keys of C major and D major,carry strong traces of the trumpet sonatas that Bolognese composers, in particular, hadwritten at the end of the previous century. The finales of both the fifth and the eleventhconcerto show this quality very clearly, even if the slow movements adopt a more intimatetone. But the most blatant 'fanfare' of all comes in the first movement of the finalconcerto in Opus 9, Albinoni's sequel to Opus 7 published in 1722. The dreamy, elegiacAdagio in B minor that forms the heart of this concerto is one of the finest specimens ofits type.
The present recording includes two of the single-oboe concertiin Opus 7: Nos. 6 and 12. Both have finales in 3/8 or 6/8 that exploit Albinoni'sfavourite rhythmic device of hemiola (where twice three units becomes thrice two units orthe reverse). Their outer movements are spacious, always presenting the main oboe themetwice in succession on its initial appearance.
The fourth concerto from Opus 7 exemplifies the four stringconcerti in this collection. It is closely related to the Sinfonia in G major included paraphrases of those inthe sinfonia, while the subsidiary material is unchanged. Self-borrowing of this kind wasnormal among Italian composers of Albinoni's generation. In place of the fugue that endsthe sinfonia, however, the concerto has a tripping, dance-like movement in 3/8.
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 and oboe, with Yehudi Menuhin,the Oboe Concerto by Grace Williams and avideo of music by Bach with Claudio Abbado. He founded the London Virtuosi in 1972 withJames Galway and John Georgiadis and the ensemble thereafter toured widely in theAmericas, throughout Europe and in the Far East. Anthony Camden himself, the son of a verydistinguished British bassoonist, has given master classes at many of the most famousconservatories and schools of music and is currently Dean of Music at the Hong KongAcademy for Performing Arts and an Honorary Professor of the Shanghai Conservatory ofMusic. In addition to some 400 recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, hisrecordings with the London Virtuosi include Mozart's OboeQuartet, a Telemann Trio for flute, oboe andharpsichord with James Galway and for RCA Haydn's Divertimento for oboe and strings. Anthony Camdenplays 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 BrandenburgConcertos and a large repertoire of Baroque and classical music. The orchestraconsists of sixteen string players, a harpsichord and an oboe and is directed from theviolin by the leader John Georgiadis, who was for fifteen years the Concertmaster of theLondon Symphony Orchestra.