This recording includes some of the most important works of French music for oboe and piano. Some were written for student examinations at the Conservatoire National Supérieure de Paris. Others were dedicated to former teachers, for example, Camille Saint-Saëns’s Sonata to “Monsieur Louis Bass, hautbois- Premier Solo de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire et de l’Opera” (tracks 11, 12 and 13).
The “Sarabande et Allegro” by Gabriel Grovlez (tracks 14 and 15) and the “Fantaisie Pastorale” by Eugène Bozza (track 7) were both dedicated to the then highly acclaimed oboist Louis Bleuzet (1874-1941), also a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. Grovlez noted in his score:
“A mon Ami Louis Bleuzet, Professeur au Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris.” The link between composers and performers was apparently very strong; these works are among the jewels of chamber music.
The oboe sonata (1947) by Henri Dutillieux (tracks 4, 5 and 6) is a jewel, as well, though the composer, born in 1916, thought otherwise. He disavowed this composition, along with other early works. Dutillieux dedicated this sonata to Monsieur Pierre Bayeux, also a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. Francis Poulenc dedicated his two sonatas on this album (tracks 1, 2 and 3 and 16, 17 and 18) to Sergei Prokofiev and Manuel de Falla.
This album takes the listener from Poulenc to Poulenc. It is a conscious departure from a program following a timeline of the dates of the compositions. The reason for this is to present the music on the album as though in a concert, in a musical progression. The album begins, for example, with the most recent work.
Total time: 01:10:24
Sphinx by Merging technologies
DPA 4006, Neumann U87, Neumann TLM 170, Sonodore
|Original Recording Format|
Galaxy Studio Belgium
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||August 21, 2015|
Currently solo oboist in the Brussels Philharmonic, Joris Van den Hauwe is highly regarded as one of the most important ambassadors of the Flemish oboe school. As well as his orchestral work, he has appeared as soloist at a long line of international concert performances. Here he demonstrates the musicality of his oboe-based chamber music, most effectively partnered by Israeli pianist Dalia Ouziel who now lives in Belgium. She too has an international career in orchestral and chamber music and has produced many solo albums, which have garnered high praise. The rapport between Van den Hauwe and Ouziel is manifest in the sheer musical unity of their playing.
Van den Hauwe’s programme includes the most important works for French oboe and piano arranged in a concert manner rather than following an academic listing of compositional dates. It is a worthy replacement for Meier & Kolly’s similar disc from Pan, which is no longer available.
Poulenc tops and tails the list; he was very fond of wind instruments and wrote for them throughout his career. His Sonata for Oboe and Piano, written in memory of Sergei Prokofiev, and is Poulenc’s last work of any stature, alters the succession of movements in his earlier wind sonatas to slow-fast-slow, ending with a ‘Deploration’ which the composer described as “a sort of liturgical chant”. It is a work of luminous beauty, and its often subdued but lyrical manner is excellently captured by the duo. However, I was disturbed to note that in early part of the first movement, in which the dynamics are mostly marked p, pp and ppp with only two brief excursions for mf, f and ff, seemed to me to be more a generalized mezzo forte. Fortunately, however, for the rest of the disc the due appear to have settled down and graded their dynamics more exactly.
Poulenc’s Trio for Piano, Oboe and Bassoon ends the concert, the duo being joined by excellent bassoonist Etienne Boudreault, whose clear, rich tone beautifully matching Van den Hauwe’s own finely honed and subtly colored sound. The trio, from 1926, was the last of the group of wind pieces which Poulenc wrote in the 1920’s, and it frequently captures the musical essence of that period. Note the order of instruments; the piano has a more soloistic part than mere accompaniment, and indeed it starts the work with a call to action which is redolent of Stravinsky’s neoclassical mode. Dedicated to Manuel de Falla this beautiful work digs deeper than Poulenc’s wind chamber music had done so far, and is delightfully played here, with a good humored Presto first movement, a wonderfully eloquent Andante and a Rondo which is rhythmically captivating.
Saint-Saëns provides a typically urbane Sonata for Oboe and Piano Op. 166, brief but with a lyrically flowering Andantino, atmospheric Ad Libitum and a frolicsome Molto Allegro well up to his usual high quality. Henry Dutillieux’s Oboe Sonata of 1947 is harmonically more astringent than any of the other pieces, softly grave in its opening Aria, an ironic Scherzo with chugging Stravinskian rhythms and an unearthly Final which reminded me in places of Ravel’s Ondine.
Not being an oboist, I had never heard of Eugène Bozza (1905-1991), Pierre Sancan (1916-2008) and Gabriel Grovlez (1879-1944), but all provided very worthwhile pieces, captivatingly played, with Van den Hauwe showing his dazzling bravura when given the opportunity.
The recording is ideal for both instruments and repertoire, captured in the extremely low noise-floor of the famous Galaxy Studios in Belgium. There is an attractive soft ambient halo around the instruments in the very well-balanced Stereo DSD track, expanded in Multichannel DSD, which also adds some aural three-dimensionality to the trio. Beware, however, your first playing of the disc. I was startled by the loud sound produced at my usual listening level, especially as the Poulenc’s opening should be pianissimo. Hastily knocking back the master volume quickly found the correct relative level, and all was well. This fine recording, once calibrated in your system, will not distract a listener from the music by one iota, except to marvel at its truthfulness.
Whether or not you are already an oboe fan, I commend this beautiful and multifaceted chamber concert to you. It is hard to resist the happy advocacy of Messrs Van den Hauwe, Ouziel and Boudreault in an entirely natural recording.
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