French Oboe Sonatas = SAINT-SAENS: Sonata in D Major for Oboe ad Piano; POULENC: Sonata for Oboe and Piano; KOECHLIN: Sonata for Oboe and Piano; MESSIAEN: Vocalise-Etude – Thomas Indermuehle, oboe/ Eriko Takezawa, p. – Camerata

by | Oct 25, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

French Oboe Sonatas = SAINT-SAENS: Sonata in D Major for Oboe ad Piano, Op. 166; POULENC: Sonata for Oboe and Piano; KOECHLIN: Sonata for Oboe and Piano, Op. 58; MESSIAEN: Vocalise-Etude No. 151 – Thomas Indermuehle, oboe/ Eriko Takezawa, p. – Camerata CMCD-28258, 51:38 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Swiss oboist Thomas Indermühle is a Heinz Holliger pupil who performs a program of French compositions for oboe and piano. Former principal oboist of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Indermühle has performed around the world and is now known as a conductor. He is on the faculty of the Zürich Conservatory and the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe.

In 1921, Saint-Saens decided to write a sonata for each major wind instrument, completing all except those for flute and English horn. Typical of this fine neo-classic composer, the lines of the Oboe Sonata enjoy a refined elegant transparency. The second movement Allegretto cavorts in 9/8 bucolic figures. The thin, reedy sound from Thomas Indermühle more than suggests how effective he would be in the two Loeffler Rhapsodies for his instrument, viola, and piano. The last movement Rondo offers a busy march with active figures in the keyboard. The insistent figure has a willowy relationship to the Beethoven “fate” motif. A lithe trill and high sojourn into the upper reaches of the instrument bring this effective work to a theatrical conclusion.

The expressive force and technical assurance of Francis Poulenc assure that his name resounds in the annals of fine Gallic musicianship. His 1962 Oboe Sonata conveys a sense of retrospection, with occasional melodic kernels from his Gloria of 1959. The first (ternary) movement, Elegie, is marked “Peacefully,” but it does break into dissonant grief at least twice in the course of its development. The Scherzo carries its own momentum, interrupted by a poignant middle section, especially in the keyboard part. The acerbic tone from Indermühle becomes quite catchy. The last movement Poulenc calls Deploration, which he overtly referred to as a “sort of liturgical chant.” Marked Tres calme, the music in a rather ghostly fashion invokes tropes from the French and Flemish musical  past, hinting at Ockeghem, Massenet, and Ravel.

The major work in this elegant program belongs to Charles Koechlin (1867-1950), whose studies in Algeria embraced Bach and modal-based folk songs. Koechlin composed his Oboe Sonata over five years, 1911-1916, and it contains many evocative passages that capture the French paysage.  The first movement bears a series of descriptive titles, many devoted to the countryside and dominated by a single shifting motif, much in the manner of Berlioz. Koechlin’s use of wide-spaced chords invokes both color and bravura in the piano part. Built on a series of perfect fifths, the second movement Scherzo bears the title, Danses de Faunes, rather a deftly metrical piece rife with reminiscences of Debussy’s protagonist or the figures from his Syrinx. The middle section brings a sensuous respite. The two movements that follow proffer first a nocturnal scene of calm and serenity (Evening in the Country) and then a gratifying mood of inner comfort (Allegro moderato). The difficulty lies in the keyboard part, often moving without traditional bar-lines, meant to eliminate any “mechanism” in the playing, all the while making serious demands on the player’s capacity for various touches and phrasing.

Indermühle and pianist Takezawa conclude with the 1935 Vocalise-Etude of Olivier Messaien (1908-1992), a gentle work originally set for high voice and piano. The modal arpeggios suggest the gamelan sound or the magic in Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite. A dreamy performance, certainly, and like its brethren here recorded (11-13 June 2011), the resonant sound from engineer Yasuhisa Takashima has been stunning from start to finish.

—Gary Lemco

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