Albert Goltzer, oboe/Alec Templeton, piano
Cembal d’amour CD 127, 63:20 (Distrib. Qualiton) ****:
American-born flute virtuoso Julius Baker (1915-2003) enjoyed a long and distinguished career that embraced tenures with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the CBS Orchestra, the Bach Aria Group, and the faculties of Curtis and Juilliard. Baker’s easy perfectionism caught the ear of conductors Reiner, Walter, Bernstein, and Stokowski, all of whom desired his sound for the principal solo parts. Ever light and aerial, Baker’s tone seems to glide over all musical hurdles, his musicianship no less elegant than his sterling technical resources. Of the ten composers represented on this survey, approved by the late flutist prior to his death, eight enjoy the accompaniment of Boris Barere, son of the legendary Simon Barere. If I had to pick only one cut to represent Baker’s genial style, it might well be the Faure Fantasy, which Baker and Barere negotiate with lofty, eminently songful caresses. The Handel Sonata in F makes a pleasant find, especially its lyrical Siciliana third movement. Ever since I first heard the Bach Second Suite under Mengelberg on old 78s, the Polonaise and Badinerie have been essential flute fare, and Baker’s realizations soar like sparrows.
The little Debussy Syrinx, conceived as a competition piece based on a bas-relief of Pan, achieves in its simplicity an eerie solitude. Barere returns to play the harp part for Saint-Saens’ gliding swan; the flighty acrobatics of the Carnival’s birds burst forth as
naturally–to cite Saint-Saens himself on his own virtuosity–”as an apple tree produces apples.” The Fantasy by Hue conveys an exotic, declamatory aura – not far from what we expect from Loeffler or Koechlin. The Hue makes considerable demands on Baker’s breath control, which he passes off with a decided abandon. Collectors will recall that composer-pianist Alec Templeton (1909-1963) liked woodwind instruments, having conceived his Pocket-Sized Sonata for Clarinet championed by Reginald Kell. The delightful Sonata for Oboe, Flute, and Piano has the composer adding to the oriental and modal colors of this charming work, thoroughly akin to Loeffler’s Rhapsodies for Oboe and Piano. Contrapuntal procedures balance the various pentatonic scales and illumined colors that embroider this happy tapestry, a ceaseless treat for the ear. Albert Goltzer, oboe, another illustrious personality from the CBS Orchestra and Juilliard, complements Baker and Templeton admirably. Recommended.
— Gary Lemco