Oboe Passion: Arias & Concertos By J.s. Bach & Sons

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This recording has been ‘in the can’ for a long time. Indeed the Bach arias have appeared before on CC 72034, the concertos on the Vanguard Classics label way back around the turn of the century. This attractive double-disc release gives the aria texts in German only at the back of the booklet, and has interesting if largely somewhat anecdotal booklet notes by Pauline Oostenrijk.

Your response to CD 1 will depend a little on whether you fancy the idea of 13 of Bach’s cantata arias for soprano and oboe obbligato taken in isolation and played back to back. It can be a bit much in one sitting, but the programme has been nicely ordered to provide contrast and is packed full of beautiful music. Nienke and Pauline Oostenrijk have performed these works many times before, and their familiarity with and love for these pieces radiates warmly through your speakers. Nienke’s soprano voice is a touch darker than choirboy purity, though it can take on this character at some moments. She uses vibrato in a natural fashion, not throwing it in like an opera diva’s wide wobble, but also not cramping her own style in an attempt to fit some abstract early music performance ideal. There are one or two moments where Bach’s technical demands test her accuracy just a little such as in the energetic Flößt, mein Heiland from the Christmas Oratorio, but there are lovely little touches as well, such as the echo in Liebster Jesu, Mein Verlangen which appears to have been dropped in during post production, the soloist taking up a position somewhere at the back of the church to provide the effect. The soprano voice and oboe are balanced nicely against the continuo harpsichord or organ and, where applicable, strings or other instruments. There are lovely numbers throughout the programme, but my highlights include the pointillist organ and recorders and scrunchy harmonies of Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen, as well as the gorgeous opening track Ich Bin Vergnuegt Mit Meinem Gluecke and the moving Seufer, Tränen, Kummer, Not. There are a few similar collections around, including a very fine but much more large scale and operatic sounding one on the Archiv label with Magdalena Kozená, a comparison with which would be like comparing chalk with marble.

The J.S. Bach oboe concerto overlaps with a couple of recent releases I’ve looked at, from ECM with Heinz Holliger, and with Alexei Ogrintchouk on the BIS label for the BWV 1055 reconstruction. Pauline Oostenrijk’s recording doesn’t really replace either of these, but it is very fine in a fairly laid back sort of way. Her oboe d’amore playing is truly lyrical in the central Larghetto, and the playing is lively if not particularly urgent in the outer movements.
The delicious sound of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta suits Johann Christian Bach’s Mozart-influenced Concerto in F perfectly. This gentle approach obtains maximum tenderness in J.C. Bach’s Larghetto, but I was glad to hear the orchestral articulation and dynamics firming up for elder brother Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Concerto in E flat. It’s perhaps a little far -fetched to read too much Sturm und Drang into this concerto, which is more pleasantly diverting than filled with the ‘violent mood changes’ which Oostenrijk claims for it in her booklet notes, but there is plenty of that empfindsame expression which characterises C.P.E. Bach’s melodically strong compositional style.

This is a fine brace of re-releases packaged in an attractive SACD hybrid single-thickness double jewel case. The SACD layer is a recent re-mastering, but doesn’t add a huge amount to already more than decent stereo recordings.

-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CC72506

  • UPC: 0608917250626

  • Label: Challenge

  • Composer: Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Conductor: Jaap ter Linden

  • Performer: Franc Polman, Karel Van Steenhoven, Lucia Swarts, Nienke Oostenrijk, Paul Leenhouts, Pauline Oostenrijk, Remy Baudet, Robert Franenberg, Siebe Henstra, Wim Ten Have