VIVALDI: Concerto for Oboe and Strings in A Minor, F. VII, No. 13; Concerto for Oboe and Strings in D Major, F. VII, No. 10; Concerto for Oboe and Strings
in C Major, F. VII, No. 6; Concerto for Oboe and Strings in A Minor, F. VII, No. 5; Concerto for Oboe and Strings in F Major, F. VII, No. 12; Concerto for Oboe and Strings in D Minor, F. VII, No. 1; Concerto for Oboe and Strings in C Major, F. VII, No. 11; Concerto for Oboe and Strings in F Major, F. VII, No. 2 – Alex Klein, oboe / New Brandenburg Collegium / Anthony Newman – Cedille Foundation CDR 7003, 75:00 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Unlike others of Vivaldi’s concertos, there are no programmatic flights of fancy among the Oboe Concertos—no storms at sea, no goldfinch songs, no barking dogs or buzzing insects. Perhaps there is also less outright drama than in many of the concertos for Vivaldi’s own instrument, the violin, though this is debatable. There is, however, much of Vivaldi’s trademark virtuoso writing for the solo instrument, as well as alternately lively and tender accompaniments for the string orchestra to weave around the solo. Oboist Alex Klein goes so far as to say that none of the oboe concertos of Vivaldi’s day, including the famous works by Albinoni, feature writing of the level of virtuosity that Vivaldi employs here and that such a level would not be reached for another hundred years. A bold statement that I really can’t pass final judgment on. Certainly this is dashing, inventive music that engages the listener as much as it keeps the musicians busy.
Klein also states that there is quite a bit of variety in these concertos and cites the example of the Concerto in C Major, F. VII, No. 6. In this work, the soloist, rather remarkably, never repeats the musical material forcefully introduced by the string body but instead plays placidly, undemonstratively, coming into her or his own only in the last movement, “where the oboe soloist appears virtuosic and strong.” Klein speculates that “as a teaching platform for a shy student, this concerto would be just the ticket to improving the player’s self-confidence and instrumental abilities simultaneously.” As Klein tells us, so little is known about Vivaldi and his relationship with individual students at Ospedale della Pietá in Venice, where he taught, that this is pure conjecture, informed and reasonable conjecture though it may be.
As you listen, you may not savor the variety that Alex Klein finds in these concertos, but nor will you find sameness or merely workaday music, from the forceful first movements to the serene aria-like slow movements to the often dancing finales.
This recording is a reissue of one that appeared originally on the Musical Heritage Society label, and it’s very welcome. Klein is a suave highly characterful soloist with a beauty of tone to match his rock-solid technique. He gets spirited assistance from the New Brandenburg Collegium under Anthony Newman’s direction. The stereo sound is big and bright, with firm bass and a well-gauged ambience. However, the soloist is just a tad forward; I’d prefer his placement further back in the mix to produce a more blended sound. But this is a small point when there are so many musical and sonic virtues here to admire.
— Lee Passarella