Albrecht Mayer / Jakub Hrusa / Bamberger Symphoniker

Longing for Paradise

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The repertory of music for solo oboe and orchestra is small, yet oboist Albrecht Mayer has put out consistently interesting programs, beautifully played, that cohere into evocative themes. He has never outdone Longing for Paradise, a collection of works from between the world wars that refer obliquely to the losses of war. Two are real finds. The opening Soliloquy for oboe and orchestra by Elgar dates from the end of the composer's life and was left in a somewhat fragmentary state; the arrangement by Gordon Jacob is also a completion of sorts, but you'd never know it. The limpid melodies of the work take full advantage of Mayer's cantabile. The Concerto for oboe and small orchestra by Richard Strauss, written in 1945, has the autumnal quality of much of his late music. As Mayer notes, it calls for an effortless quality in some technically complex material; Mayer, as ever, never lets you see him sweat. The arrangement of Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin by Joachim Schmeißer works well enough given the Baroque derivation of the five movements (you get all except the Toccata from the keyboard version). The highlight for many listeners may be the Concerto for oboe and orchestra in one movement of Eugene Goossens from 1929. Sample this for Mayer's supremely elegant reading. This work channels Impressionist melodies and harmonies into a French neoclassic aesthetic, and its neglect, due to self-appointed judges of what was modern, is nothing short of a crime. A major triumph for Mayer.

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