Albinoni: The Collected Concertos for Oboe and Strings

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ALBINONI Concerti a cinque : 1–12, Op. 7; 1–12, Op. 9. Sinfonia in g, Si 7 • Simon Standage (vn, cond); Anthony Robson (ob); Catherine...


ALBINONI Concerti a cinque : 1–12, Op. 7; 1–12, Op. 9. Sinfonia in g, Si 7 Simon Standage (vn, cond); Anthony Robson (ob); Catherine Latham (ob); Collegium Musicum 90 CHANDOS 0792 (3 CDs: 199:20)


These recordings were released in the mid to late 1990s, and Chandos has now conveniently packaged them up in a three-disc boxed set. I’m a little surprised that a fourth disc from this same source containing Albinoni’s 12 Concerti a cinque , op. 5, wasn’t also included in this collection.


Well before Vivaldi, Albinoni was the first Italian composer to feature the oboe as a solo instrument in a concerto; and indeed, of the 12 concertos, op. 7, Nos. 3, 6, 9, and 12 feature a solo oboe, while Nos. 2, 5, 8, and 11 are double concertos featuring two oboes. Only Nos. 1, 4, 7, and 10 are for strings only.


The 12 concertos, op. 9, revisit Albinoni’s oboe-centric passion, but this time with a reversal in the sequence of the single and double oboe works. Now the single oboe concertos are Nos. 2, 5, 8, and 11, while the doubles are 3, 6, 9, and 12. Once again, Nos. 1, 4, 7, and 10 are for strings only, but now, instead of sans soloist, as they were in op. 7, they call for a solo violin. The famous Adagio from the D-Minor Oboe Concerto, op. 9/2, is undoubtedly the most arrestingly beautiful movement in all 24 of these concertos.


Albinoni, however, did not compose concertos in the same style as Vivaldi, and a clue to that is found in the designation “a cinque.” Albinoni saw the solo instrument or instruments as a fifth voice, an obbligato if you will, to the four-voiced string section (first and second violin, viola, and cello doubled an octave lower by double bass); and that is reflected in the way the solo episodes engage with the orchestral strings. First, the solos are not as florid or as overtly virtuosic. And second, in his concertos, Albinoni almost never scales back the orchestra, or ripieno, if you like, to mere accompaniment for the solo episodes. Full participation and interaction between soloist(s) and orchestra is continuous, so that the block-like demarcations between solo and ritornello passages are blurred. Albinoni’s concertos, rather than following Vivaldi, are closer to the Corelli concerto grosso model, and to the model Handel would follow in his op. 6 Concerti grossi. They’re also closer to the model Bach followed in his violin, oboe, and harpsichord concertos. The ritornellos are there, and so are the solo episodes, but during those solo episodes, the orchestra remains fully engaged and in contrapuntal dialog with the soloist(s); it’s not relegated to a mere accompanimental role. In fact, Albinoni’s love of counterpoint is reflected in his op. 5 set of concerti a cinque , in which the last movement of each of the 12 concertos is a fugue.


Albinoni’s concertos are more conservative or backward-looking than Vivaldi’s, representing a kind of transition or hybrid between Corelli’s concerti grossi and the emergent solo concertos of Giuseppe Torelli, one of the earliest composers to cultivate the alternating solo and ritornello principle. But on the other hand, you could say that Albinoni’s concertos, with their more integrated contrapuntal interplay are of a greater musical sophistication, and that they were as much of, if not more than, an influence on Bach as were the concertos of Vivaldi.


The good news regarding this Chandos repackaging—assuming you didn’t buy the single discs when they were originally released—is that it gives you both the op. 7 and op. 9 sets complete and in really spiffy performances by an absolutely topflight period instrument band. I emphasize complete , because the two-disc set with I Solisti di Perugia on Camerata, reviewed and recommended by George Chien in 34:4, contains only the eight concertos from each opus that feature oboes; the strings-only concertos are not included. Even the three-disc set on Brilliant Classics, which goes Camerata one better by including the violin concertos of op. 9 (Nos. 1, 4, 7, and 10), does not include the strings-only concertos of op. 7 (Nos. 1, 4, 7, and 10), so you get only 20 concertos instead of all 24. Moreover, the concertos from the two opus numbers are intermingled instead of being presented as integral collections. The Chandos set at hand gives the complete op. 7 on disc 1 in order by concerto number, and then the complete op. 9 on discs 2 and 3 in order, thus preserving Albinoni’s original sequencing.


The only other set I’m familiar with that contains the almost complete opp. 7, 9, and 5 is a four-disc collection on Capriccio with the Budapest Strings, which is why I expressed some surprise at the very beginning that Chandos didn’t make this a four-disc set and include its op. 5 as well with Standage and Collegium Musicum 90. That would have been preferable to the Budapest set, which is inexplicably missing the fourth concerto from the op. 9 collection. It’s a mystery as to why it was omitted, when the disc that could/should have contained it runs for just over 59 minutes.


I also italicized period instrument above, because Standage’s survey for Chandos is the only one I’m aware of to offer all three Albinoni concerto collections on period instruments. As George Chien noted in his aforementioned review, “Period-instrument groups have shown surprisingly little interest in Albinoni’s concertos.”


Before closing, I should mention that I Musici recorded the opp. 5, 7, and 9 concertos, the latter two sets with oboist Heinz Holliger, for Philips. Other than as downloads, however, the physical CDs seems to be nla, which is a shame because the performances, on modern instruments, with one of the world’s leading oboists, are excellent, and all three opus numbers are complete, an advantage some of the other sets lack. There’s also, by the way, an op. 10 set of 12 concertos for strings only for you to explore, but it’s not nearly as well represented on record as the earlier opus numbers. I have the complete op. 10, also with I Musici, but on a three-disc Philips LP set, which I’m not sure was ever silvered. The only op. 10 I have on CD is a two-disc Erato set with Claudio Scimone leading I Solisti Veneti.


As you’ve no doubt gathered from the length of this review, I’m very fond of these concertos, and I acquired these Chandos CDs when they first came out as singles. You can now purchase them too, and for a lot less than I originally paid for them. I can’t urge you too strongly to do so. Even if you don’t agree with me that Albinoni was the better composer than Vivaldi, these concertos will still give you enormous pleasure.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins


Product Description:


  • Release Date: March 26, 2013


  • UPC: 095115079225


  • Catalog Number: CHAN 0792(3)


  • Label: Chandos


  • Number of Discs: 3


  • Composer: Tomaso Albinoni


  • Conductor: Simon Standage


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90


  • Performer: Anthony Robson, Catherine Latham



Works:


  1. Concerto à cinque, for 2 violins, viola, cello & continuo No. 1 in D major, Op. 7/1 (T. 7/1)

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  2. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 2 for 2 Oboes in C major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  3. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 3 for Oboe in B flat major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  4. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 4 for Strings in G major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  5. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 5 for 2 Oboes in C major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  6. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 6 for Oboe in D major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  7. Concerto à cinque, for 2 violins, viola, cello & continuo No. 7 in A major, Op. 7/7, (T. 7/7)

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  8. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 8 for 2 Oboes in D major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  9. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 9 for Oboe in F major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  10. Concerto à cinque, for 2 violins, viola, cello & continuo No. 10 in B flat major, Op. 7/10, (T. 7/10

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  11. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 11 for 2 Oboes in C major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  12. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 7: no 12 for Oboe in C major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  13. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 1 for Violin in B flat major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  14. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 2 for Oboe in D minor

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  15. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 3 for 2 Oboes in F major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  16. Concerto à cinque, for solo violin, 2 violins, viola, cello & continuo No. 4 in A major, Op. 9/4, (T

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  17. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 5 for Oboe in C major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  18. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 6 for 2 Oboes in G major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  19. Concerto à cinque, for 2 solo violins, violin, viola, cello & continuo No. 7 in D major, Op. 9/7 (T.

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  20. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 8 for Oboe in G minor

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  21. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 9 for 2 Oboes in C major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  22. Concerto à cinque, for 2 solo violins, violin, viola, cello & continuo No. 10 in F major, Op. 9/10 (

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  23. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 11 for Oboe in B flat major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  24. Concerti (12) à 5, Op. 9: no 12 for 2 Oboes in D major

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Performer: Catherine Latham (Oboe), Anthony Robson (Oboe)

    Conductor: Simon Standage


  25. Sinfonia, for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, bassoon & continuo in G minor, T. Si 7

    Composer: Tomaso Albinoni

    Ensemble: Collegium Musicum 90

    Conductor: Simon Standage