MOZART: Divertimento, K. 334; Oboe Quartet, K. 370 – Robin Williams, oboe/ Scottish Chamber Orchestra Ensemble/ Alexander Janiczek, director and violin – Linn multichannel SACD 376, 63:48 [Distr. by Naxos] **:
K. 205, 247, 287, and 334 belong to a series of chamber works designated for small string ensemble (single player) and two horns. The one recorded here in particular is the best of the lot, and the last time Mozart would use the form until the magnificent Divertimento for String Trio, K. 563, composed in 1788. The K. 334 is a rich example of the composer’s inventiveness and part writing, and his melodic material is exceptionally notable in what he regarded as a “Cassation”, or piece of music meant for the street. This one most likely remained in the parlor. Alexander Janiczek plays the violin beautifully, and the Scots band backs him up all the way.
I was originally just as enthusiastic about this performance of the seminal Oboe Quartet, surely one of Mozart’s most engrossing and engaging works, and oboist Robin Williams does have a lovely sound. The piece hails from the time of the composer’s opera Idomeneo, and was written for Mannheim oboist Friedrich Ramm in 1878. Ramm was noted for his exceptional tone, and Mozart writes a piece that really has no rival for expressive possibilities in the entire literature. He also demands virtuoso passage work and sky high notes, and it is here where Mr. Williams fails, in the second movement, with some intonation that is about as sour as I have ever heard on a recording—it made me wince. Quite simply, this should never have been released.
So despite my general support and excitement over Linn’s SACD Mozart series with these forces, and the fact that half of the recording is truly excellent, I simply cannot give a general recommendation because of the ridiculously out of tune oboe in the Quartet—a real shame.
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