Speaking of oboists: Alex Klein

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Lance
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Speaking of oboists: Alex Klein

Post by Lance » Fri Aug 12, 2005 9:56 pm

Mini-Review

"The Great Works Schubert (N)ever Wrote for the Oboe" - "Why Not"
Arpeggione Sonata
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Sheperd on the Rock)
Sonatina in D, Op. 137/1
Sonatina in a, Op. 137/2

Alex Klein, Lorée oboe
Craig Sheppard, pianist
Carmen Pelton, soprano
Boston Records BR 1039, DDD, 68:05
Producer: Wayne Rapier

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A while back, we had a discussion on various oboists we love (or don't love). Well, one we might easily fall in love with is Alex Klein who has made a distinctive recording of the music of Franz Schubert on music we usually hear performed on other instruments, most notably, the clarinet (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen), cello (Arpeggione) or the violin (Sonatinas).

All this is possible because of the oboe custom built for him by the Parisian firm of Lorée, created by Alain de Gourdon specially made for the performance and recordings of the works on this recording. The instrument has an extension allowing him to play (as the notes describe) as low as A below middle C on the bottom of the range, and take it high enough to play three octaves where a normal range of an oboe is two and one-half octaves.

"Does it work?" you might ask. Decidely so. In the Sonatinas, one immediately thinks of the ravishing violin tone of a David Oistrakh, and once Klein's oboe tone begins to soar, it becomes immediately comfortable for the ear. Admittedly, it takes a bit of adjustment if you know any of these works well in their original instrumentation. One might initially miss the more luxurious/deeper (for lack of better words) tone of the clarinet in the Shepherd on the Rock piece, but it is entirely possible to substitute the clarinet with the oboe to achieve Schubert's supreme effects of the work on the listener.

Today, nobody (of note) plays the "arpeggione," a six-stringed instrument invented by one Herr Staufer of Vienna in 1823. That instrument can be seen as a cross between a cello and a guitar, played with a bow and equipped with a fretted fingerboard. Today, the four-string cello replaces the arpeggione, and a good thing, because Schubert's work is too fine a composition to have been thrown into a dusty bin somewhere in Austria because the instrument it was written for became extinct. A flowing, melodious work, typical of Schubert in his lieder, we might initially miss the deep sound and rich sonority of the cello, but again, the ear compensates, and eventually you find yourself immersed into the liquid sounds of Alex Klein's exceptional and beautifully voiced oboe.

About Alex Klein, he was born in Brazil and began in music studies at the age of nine. He gave his first performance with orchestra at age 10, and a year later became a member of Camerata Antiqua, one of the foremost Brazilian chamber orhcestras. Klein completed his studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, earning many prizes.

In New York, Klein won first prize in the First New York International Oboe Competition and continued to win top honors in Japan, Switzerland, Brazil and elsewhere. In Switzerland, Klein took the first prize, not having been awarded to an oboist for 29 years at which Heinz Holliger was the winner.

In 1995, Daniel Barenboim appointed Klein to the position of Principal Oboist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Suisse Romande, and has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions.

The recording was made at the home of Verla and Alvin L. Kwiram in Washington state in 1999. The acoustics are outstanding for the all the music heard on this disc, and it and is well recorded and beautifully balanced.

Pianist Craig Sheppard proves to be an ideal piano partner, musically breathing and feeling every expression with the oboe soloist. Soprano Carmen Pelton's soprano voice is clear and bright, though it is a bit less focused than the other instruments. There are occasional thumping sounds heard throughout the disc, but these are largely unintrusive.

An exceptional disc from Boston Records, and oboe lovers will find this a fascinating recording to discover, one that provides some treasurable moments.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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