Albrecht Mayer

Song of the Reeds

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Albrecht Mayer is a rarity among reed players, achieving a level of recognition among audiences more like that reached by many violinists or pianists. His recordings of music arranged for oboe or English horn from its original instrumentation or even from vocal music have sold well, thanks to his ability to make his instruments sing. For 2012's Song of the Reeds, Mayer -- and colleagues -- presents selections that are specifically for oboe or English horn, but once again, the idea of the oboe acting as a singing voice is the guiding principal. The works are all Romantic or post-Romantic era pieces, when songs without words were a dominant form of music. The Schumann Romanzen are the most familiar of the all the selections, standards of the oboe repertoire, but everything else is relatively unknown. The Schilflieder -- lending its name to the album's title -- adds a viola to the oboe and piano. The five pieces were inspired by the poetry of Nikolaus Lenau and are very much of their time: full of heart-on-sleeve emotion, lush lyricism, and heroism. The fourth one almost sounds like a silent film accompaniment. Mayer, pianist Markus Becker, and violist Tabea Zimmermann make the music engaging and communicative, precisely controlling their phrasing, but making it sound completely natural and not hamming up the sentiment. The same is true of the Herzogenberg Trio for oboe, horn, and piano. Liebesruf eines Faun is akin to Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, with a little whimsy thrown in. Becker's jazz-inflected prelude flows neatly into the excerpt from Weismann's Variations, Op. 39. The choices here are further examples of Mayer's incredible fluidity of sound and ease of expression that given him his well-earned reputation.

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