Handel: Oboe Concertos. © 2022 Brilliant Classics

CD Spotlight

Quite Muddied and On Steroids

GEOFF PEARCE has very mixed feelings about Andrius Puskunigis' new recording of Handel oboe concertos

'... there are some truly lovely moments ...'


I was eagerly awaiting this disc, even though there were some transcribed works (which quite frankly leave me a bit mixed in opinion). The musicians are all very competent players and Andrius Puskunigis is undoubtedly a very fine player with great breath control, dexterous finger work and tongue and an attractive tone. The whole disc left me somewhat overwhelmed, however.

Listen — Handel: Allegro (Concerto-Pasticcio in C)
(96091 track 2, 0:00-0:55) ℗ 2022 Brilliant Classics :

The recording, in Lithuania, was made in a very live building, and I found the overall sound levels too high, and perhaps a bit close. This had the effect of being quite oppressive in the louder and faster sections, and the sound, to my ears, was quite muddied and on steroids. The performance of the soloist, to my ears, was quite forceful and after a short while, aural fatigue set in and I was only really able to listen to a little at a time.

Listen — Handel: Allegro (Oboe Concerto in G minor)
(96091 track 6, 0:14-0:44) ℗ 2022 Brilliant Classics :

Whilst some of the earlier recordings, particularly of the G minor concerto (HWM 287) were dreary and stodgy, the tempi here chosen were often a bit too brisk, and the sound overly bright. This seems to be evident in a lot of modern recordings. Sometimes, it works well, but in others, as is the case here on occasion, the style of the music is overlooked. On saying that, there are some truly lovely moments, such as the Adagio of the C minor concerto.

Listen — Handel: Adagio (Oboe Concerto in C minor)
(96091 track 10, 0:00-0:56) ℗ 2022 Brilliant Classics :

Whilst there are a lot of premier recordings of music presented here as oboe concertos for the first time, I did not find the presentation all that convincing, and I think the recording engineering had a lot to do with this.

Listen — Handel: Adagio (Oboe Concerto in C minor)
(96091 track 22, 0:00-0:41) ℗ 2022 Brilliant Classics :

I received this review as a download, without any accompanying booklet, and I would have liked to know more of the artists and what was chosen to transcribe and why. I was able to glean a little information online, but I think that more information could have been provided.

To my ears, there are much more pleasing offerings of the Handel oboe concerts around, for example Anthony Camden/Julia Girdwood and the City of London Sinfonia, conducted by Nicholas Ward as a comparison, which is excellent and is performed, as is the disc being reviewed, on modern instruments. There are also many recordings on Baroque oboe too which are very often quite stunning: Xenia Loeffler springs to mind.

I do not like to give negative reviews, particularly when reviewing recordings of very fine artists, as these performers undoubtably are, as I know how much goes into the process, and appreciation is very subjective, but for my taste, there are other recordings of many of these works I would rather hear.

Copyright © 10 June 2022 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia







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