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Classical Era Oboe QuartetsOct. 7 2015
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Bohemian born Josef Fiala (1748-1816) was renowned as an oboist, receiving a letter of recommendation from none other than Leopold Mozart. So it is no surprise that his compositions often favor that wind instrument, including the two quartets on this recording.
Both follow a four movement structure, each a minuet in a different sequence. In the opening ‘Allegro spirituoso’ of the F Major Quartet, the oboe immediately grabs the spotlight and never lets go. With a faint violin as an echo, the solo wind drives this relentlessly charming 1st movement through a brief minor keyed interlude and solo passages brimming with triplets. While employing an engaging pizzicato in the bass line, the delicate ‘Minuetto Moderato’ again places the oboe front and center. Also in triple meter, a yearning ‘Andante’ in minor features a graceful dialogue between the cello and solo wind with the plaintive tone of the oboe enhances the bittersweet sorrow. A bright ‘Allegro’ closes the work as a poignant violin emerges from the back ground and the single wind flashes a high degree of proficiency in the virtuosic solos.
Written in E Flat, Fiala’s second quartet gives the string trio added responsibility and makes for a more intriguing work. Animated scurrying phrases interspersed among smoother legato passages create an appealing contrast, with one voice rushing by the others only to fall back a few measures later. Plucked accompaniment in the lower strings offers cordial support to the two upper voices in the amiable ‘Andante’ while a perky ‘Minuetto’ occupies the 3rd position. A rising arpeggio unison phrase opens and is taken over in the bass line, uniting the section as the contrasting trio uses a descending line in a winning reversal. Delivered at a blistering pace with hushed urgency, a delightful ‘Rondo Presto’ concludes the quartet.
Trained as a violinist, Franz Krommer (1759-1831) shows a mature compositional approach employing counterpoint and differentiated part writing, allowing the violin to introduce ideas as often as the solo wind. His quartet in C Major contains a complex development section in the enchanting ‘Allegro’, the 2 soprano voices sharing a dialogue that shifts in and out of minor. A shimmering violin begins the tender ‘Adagio’. As it gradually gathers steam, the 2nd movement features longer, sustained notes from the oboe which permits allowing Lajos Lencses to display a gorgeous tone not apparent in the earlier works by Fiala. With a lovely solo turn from the upper string and a fetching counter melody in the cello, exquisite beauty in the individual passages characterize this middle section. A jolly ‘Rondo’ brings the work to a rollicking close as the oboe and violin play “Can you top this?”
Also in 3 parts, Krommer’s F Major Quartet begins the pleasing ‘Allegro’ with a soaring violin. After a triplet laden interplay with the wind instrument, both upper voices step back to give the cello the spotlight for a brief but satisfying solo. Substituting a thoughtful ‘Minuetto’ for the adagio, Krommer gives the violin prominence as the extended solos climb high on the E string, demonstrating his skill in writing for his original instrument. Despite an ominous excursion into minor, the relentless ‘Rondo’ retains a frisky cheerfulness as it accelerates to a rousing conclusion. A fleeting coda ends the piece with a playful wink.
Made in 1993, the recording by Capriccio is fine, although the violin sounds somewhat recessed, most notably in the tracks by Fiala. His works take a back seat to those of Krommer, although both offer ample opportunity for the oboe of Lajos Lencses to shine. He brings a subtle flare to the virtuosic passages, and a depth of understanding to the slower sections while the Deutsche String Trio offers more than adequate support to these excellent examples of the Classical era oboe quartet.