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ClassicsOnline Home » ALBINONI: Oboe Concertos, Vol. 1
"A must for Baroque lovers"
Perform, Brisbane (Australia)
"If it's clarity and precision you want then the collection of Albinoni Oboe Concerti... is the disc for you (and your friends at Christmas if you think anything of them)"
Sunday Mail (Australia)
"an excellent recording that I recommend to every music lover"
Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (1671-1751)
Oboe Concerti, Op. 9, Nos. 2,3,5,8,9 & 11
The oboe, perfected in France around the middle of the seventeenth century,
gained acceptance in Venice during the 1690s. The first known Venetian operas to
include apart for it dated from 1692, and by 1696 at the latest it had been
heard at the Basilica of San Marco, which two years later recruited its first
permanent player of the oboe. Several other oboists of note established
themselves in the city, and the four ospedali grandi (the charitable
institutions caring for foundlings, orphans and the destitute) added the
instrument to the teaching curriculum.
It was logical, given Italy's - and, indeed, Venice's - pioneering rôle in
the development of the Concerto, that sooner or later the first concerti with
parts for oboes would be written. The big question was how, if at all, Should,
they differ in style and form from violin concerti? For Vivaldi, as for most
Italian composers, the problem was easily resolved. In his hands the oboe
becomes a kind of ersatz violin. To be sure, he takes care not to exceed the
normal compass of the instrument (running from the D above Middle C to the D two
octaves higher), remembers to insert pauses for breathing and avoids over-abrupt
changes of register, but the solo part still seems remarkably violinistic - as
Vivaldi himself tacitly acknowledged when, on more than one occasion, he
prescribed the violin as an alternative to the oboe.
It was left to Vivaldi's important Venetian contemporary, Tomaso Albinoni
(1671-1751), to find another way of treating the oboe in a concerto. Apart from
being a capable Violinist, Albinoni was a singing teacher married to an operatic
diva. His experience of writing operas and cantatas decisively affected the way
in which he approached melody and instrumentation. His concerti equate the oboe
not with a violin but with the human voice in an aria. Conjunct movement and
small intervals are generally preferred to wide skips. In opening orchestral
passages the oboe does not double the first violin (as in Vivaldi concerti) but
bides its time until its solo entry or else supplies an independent line. The
opening solo idea is often presented twice - the first time abortively, the
second time with a normal continuation. This twofold presentation is a device
borrowed straight from the operatic aria of the time.
Albinoni describes these works as concerti 'with', rather than 'for' oboe.
The difference is significant. Whereas in a Vivaldi oboe concerto the prime aim
is to showoff the capability of the soloist, here the oboe is the partner rather
than the dominator of the first violin - and even the second violin is not
excluded from the discourse. The spirit of give and take that exists between the
treble instruments lends these works a character that reminds one of chamber
Albinoni's first set of Concerti a cinque with parts for one or two oboes,
published in Amsterdam as his Op. 7 in 1715, has the distinction of being
the first such collection by an Italian composer ever published. Some of the
works in it, in particular those with two oboes, show their novelty by being
insubstantial in content or uncertain in form. Seven years later Albinoni
returned to the genre, this time with greater maturity and mastery.
He dedicated his new opus to Max II Emanuel, elector of Bavaria. During much
of the War of the Spanish Succession, Max, an ally of the French, had lived in
exile, but in 1715 he re-established his court in Munich. Music flourished there
(five oboists were on the payroll!), and Albinoni will almost certainly have met
the elector personally in 1720, when his wife Margarite sang in opera at Munich.
The dedication evidently paid off handsomely, for later that year (1722)
Albinoni was invited to write festive stage works for a wedding at the electoral
The Op. 9 concerti are subdivided into four groups, each of which
begins with a concerto for solo violin (here the oboe is silent), continues with
a concerto for one oboe and finishes with one for two oboes. No.5, in C major,
is a typical specimen of the composer's late style. The orchestral texture is in
places highly contrapuntal, but Albinoni never sacrifices tunefulness to a show
of learning. Arthur Hutchings, his greatest advocate among British
musicologists, aptly describes the finale as 'conveying the allure of the dance
without suggesting the street or barnyard'.
F major is one of the traditional keys of the natural horn, which because of
its association with hunting was treated as an emblem of the nobility and the
courtly way of life. Accordingly, Albinoni, in homage to the Bavarian elector,
fills the fast outer movements of the third concerto with hunting calls. The
masterpiece of the set is undoubtedly the second concerto, whose long, elegiac
slow movement has been dubbed Albinoni's second Adagio'.
The concerti in B flat major (no.11) and G minor (no.8)
complete the group of concerti with one oboe. Albinoni was very sensitive to the
associations of different keys. For him, B flat major is bright and
assertive, G minor melancholy and introspective. Similarly, the key of
the other ‘double’ concerto in this recording, no.9 in C major,
conforms to a familiar stereotype, being triumphant with a touch of pomposity.
Luckily, the slow movements, which in every case are in a different key, provide
the necessary contrast and give each work a well-rounded character.
@ 1993 Michael Talbot
The London Virtuosi
The London Virtuosi was founded in 1972 by Anthony Camden, James Galway and
principal string players from the London Symphony Orchestra. In the 21 years of
its life the London Vir1uosi has performed in all the major countries in the
world -USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, China, Japan etc. It has been the resident
orchestra in Festivals in the UK and Spain and made many recordings. In recent
years the London Vir1uosi has specialised in performing all the Brandenburg
Concertos and a large reper1oire of Baroque and classical music. The orchestra
consists of 16 string players, a harpsichord and an oboe and is directed from
the violin by the leader John Georgiadis who was previously the Concer1master
for 15 years of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Violins John Georgiadis
Anthony Camden is solo oboist with the London Virtuosi, having served as
principal oboe in the London Symphony Orchestra from 1972 to 1988. His solo
recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra include the Bach Concerto for
violin and oboe, with Yehudi Menuhin, the Oboe Concerto by Grace Williams and a
video of music by Bach with Claudio Abbado. He founded the London Virtuosi in
1972 with James Galway and John Georgiadis and the ensemble thereafter toured
widely in the Americas, throughout Europe and in the Far East. Anthony Camden
himself, the son of a very distinguished British bassoonist, has given master
classes at many of the most famous conservatories and schools of music. In
addition to some 400 recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, his
recordings with the London Virtuosi include Mozart's Oboe Quartet, a
Telemann Trio for flute, oboe and harpsichord with James Galway and for RCA
Haydn's Divertimento for oboe and strings. Anthony Camden plays on a
Julia Girdwood is currently Principal Oboist of the Covent Garden Orchestra.
In 1977 she became the first Gold Medal winner of the Shell/London Symphony
Orchestra Scholarship for young musicians. She then studied in London with
Anthony Camden. In the last few years she has appeared as guest Principal with
all the London Orchestras and has recorded both the Mozart and the Vaughan
Williams Oboe Concertos. She also plays on a Howarth Oboe.
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ALBINONI: Oboe Concertos, Vol. 1