Harmonia Caelestis = BACH: Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis”; Concerto in D Minor for Oboe, Violin, Strings, and Basso Continuo (transcription of BWV 1060); Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 12, “Weinen, Kagen, Sorgen, Zagen”; Concerto in A Major for Oboe d’amore, Strings, and Basso Continuo (reconstructed from BWV 1055); MOZART: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben (instr. version of aria from Zaide KV 336b/344); Concerto for Oboe and Strings KV 314 – Lajos Lencsés and Annette Schütz, oboe/ Mila Georgieva, violin/ Strings of the RSO Stuttgart/ Budapest Strings/ Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn/ Jörg Faerber – Bayer Records 100 372, 56:12 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
This is a sort of homegrown concept album with a comfortable retro feel to it, including the participation of the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn and conductor Jörg Faerber, which should take listeners of a certain age down Memory Lane. The memories might not be all good: back in the 60s the Württemberg CO was budget label Vox’s go-to chamber orchestra. Some of its less-than-memorable recordings are still available in greatest-hits kinds of anthologies. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this disc from Bayer Records. But I need not have worried; the playing of all three orchestras is first-class. Now that I think of it, only the sound on those old Vox discs was execrable—attenuated and distantly miced: who could make an impression given those kinds of production values?
Speaking of production values, they’re one of the reasons I call this album homegrown. The booklet text is written by the oboist, Lajos Lencsés, in both German and fractured English of which I furnish an example: “I borrowed the title ‘Harmonia Caelestis’ from the cantata cycle of the lestat-composer Észterhàzy incidentally.” Lencsés apparently even chose the cover art, a detail from Caravaggio’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which is supposed to reflect the heavenly theme of the album. Whether it’s all heavenly music or not I leave up to individual listeners; it’s all very good music, for sure, and very well played by Lencsés, who has a fulsome, liquid tone with a hint of tasteful vibrato in the manner of his teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, Pierre Pierlot.
The Bach Concerto for Oboe and Violin is a transcription of the Concerto for Two Harpsichords BWV 1060, a respectable enough practice given that Bach transcribed his own concerti for other instruments. In fact, Harpsichord Concerto No. 4 BWV 1055 is thought to be based on a lost concerto for oboe d’amore, so the reconstruction for oboe d’amore on the current disc makes a good bit of sense. This is one of Bach’s sprightliest and most appealing concertos whether played on the harpsichord, oboe, or flute (which Jean-Pierre Rampal has done on a disc available from Sony).
The short works make for a nice overture and entr’actes; Mozart’s Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben is equally lovely whether sung by a soprano or crooned by an oboe. Then there is Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, which also comes in a version in D major for flute adapted by none other than Mozart himself. Lencsés, Faerber, and the Württemberg CO turn in a performance that’s suave and mellifluous. In fact, fans of period-authentic performance practice may find these renditions a little too suave for their tastes, but they’re all so musicianly that I think most listeners will be quite happy with this disc. And that includes the warm natural sound the engineers have coaxed from a church (the Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche?) in Sommerain, a suburb of Stuttgart.
A rich reflections into Rachmaninoff’s oeuvre