Nicholas Daniel

Ralph Vaughan Williams, James MacMillan: Oboe Concertos

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It is the 1944 Oboe Concerto of Ralph Vaughan Williams, so distant from the terrors of war and so congruent in its combination of reed-instrument soloist and pastoral signs, that gets top billing here. That's natural enough; it's a crowd-pleasing work, and because star oboists are a rare breed, it's not as often heard as other works by this composer. The big news here, however, is that the other oboe concerto on the program, the 2010 Oboe Concerto of Scots composer James MacMillan, just might inspire the evolution of a few more star oboists. Within its mere 24 minutes are large musical spaces with a great variety of musical colors and external references, leading up to an impressive finale that takes corners quickly at the top of the oboe's range. MacMillan himself, leading the Britten Sinfonia, wisely brackets this work with appropriate chamber-orchestra works: Benjamin Britten's late Suite on English Folk Tunes: A Time There Was, Op. 90, and his own One, for chamber orchestra. But the star here is oboe soloist Nicholas Daniel, equally adept in the blazing MacMillan finale and in the calmly dreamy Vaughan Williams and the quite grave slow movement of the MacMillan concerto. An impressive addition to the oboe discography, with some of the gnarliest oboe writing since Vivaldi's concertos for his orphan virtuosi at the Ospedale della Pietà.

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