This budget-priced two-disc set combines two earlier releases by Baroque oboist Paul Goodwin, accompanied by nearly the same group of Baroque specialists in each case. Vivaldi and Telemann make a good pairing for these performers, allowing them to show off chops in various kinds of material. The Baroque oboe sounds different from its modern version; it lacked certain keys for chromatic notes, which had to be fingered. The result is a shifting tone quality that loses the pure lyricism of the modern oboe but replaces it with, arguably, a more robust and expressive sound. Goodwin and his accompanists treat each of these pieces as an individual, with impressive results. The Vivaldi sonatas include a number of extreme technical challenges, into which Goodwin throws himself with physicality and enthusiasm. Sample the final Allegro of the Sonata for oboe and continuo in C minor, RV 53, for a taste of blazing speed that brings intensity from the performer, not a machine-like perfection. In technically imposing pieces of this kind, the accompanying players (in RV 53 there is a large continuo group consisting of cello, harpsichord, and archlute) create a big sound that stands up to Goodwin's heroics; in the more modest music by Telemann on disc 2, they back off considerably and let Goodwin offer an ingratiating sound. The Vivaldi disc includes two forgeries long attributed to Vivaldi but actually composed by French musette (bagpipe) player Nicolas Chédeville; they were certainly influenced by Vivaldi, and they shed some light on the still-emerging influence of Vivaldi on the mid-century galant style. Among the highlights of the two Chédeville sonatas are the bizarre, almost ragtime-like syncopations in the Allegro, ma non presto movement of the Sonata for oboe and continuo, RV 59.
Harmonia Mundi deserves credit for reproducing the very informative booklet notes of both of the original releases rather than replacing them with a pared-down budget version. But the tracklists are confusing in several respects. The two Chédeville sonatas are marked with an asterisk and denoted as compositions by "Vivaldi/Chédeville," which is inaccurate; Vivaldi seems to have had nothing to do with them. And the sonatas on the Vivaldi disc (although, curiously, not those by Telemann) have all the instruments listed: the RV 53 sonata, for instance, is given as a work "for oboe, cello, harpsichord, and archlute" rather than just for oboe and continuo. This would be merely annoying if not for the fact that it obscures Vivaldi's accomplishment in the Sonata in C major for oboe, violin, organ, and chalumeau, RV 779, an extremely unusual Baroque work in that its four parts are all actually written out, and marked with the names of the young women for whom Vivaldi intended them (he wrote the work while he was music director at a Venetian orphanage for girls, the Ospedale della Pietà). An oddly edited tracklist, however, detracts very little from a masterfully performed disc filled with musical riches.