Albrecht Mayer's 'Bonjour Paris'

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Albrecht Mayer is a rarity: an oboe soloist with a major-label recording contract. With a "day job" as the principal oboist in the Berlin Philharmonic he also gives solo recitals and masterclasses around the world. Our Album of the Week shows just why Mayer is in such demand, a collection of popular melodies from the French repertoire, with a world premiere for good measure.

The oboe is one of the most soloistic of symphony orchestra instruments and yet it rivals the tuba for the number of concertos in its name. Sure, Mozart and Richard Strauss composed oboe concertos, and Baroque composers had a love affair with the double-reed instrument (Vivaldi wrote over 15 oboe concertos). But even those pieces are rarely performed and this notoriously cantankerous instrument is perhaps best known for its role in tuning the orchestra before every concert.

With this collection Mayer is principally concerned with showing off the oboe’s singing qualities, applying a velvety tone and nimble technique to a variety of transcriptions. Chief among them are several piano pieces adapted for oboe, including Satie’s celebrated Gymnopedie No. 1, Debussy’s La Fille aux cheveux de lin and Clair de lune and Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante defunte. Works originally for orchestra (Faure’s Pavane) and voice (Reynaldo Hahn’s A Chloris) also turn up.

The album contains one world premiere, the contemplative Ete ("summer,") by Swiss composer Gotthard Odermatt. Like the arrangements, it is perfectly enjoyable. But perhaps the biggest surprise is Jean Françaix’s L'Horloge De Flore (1959) a suite that depicts a giant musical flowering clock, which for every hour of the day and night describes a plant in music, from the gladiolus to the cactus. The deftly orchestrated music brings together Mayer's stylish playing with the brilliant accompaniments of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Bonjour Paris
Albrecht Mayer, oboe
The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Mathias Monius, conductor
Decca
Available at Arkivmusic.com