Ludwig August Lebrun: Oboe Concertos. Nancy Ambrose King, oboe; Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra; Jeremy Swerling, conductor. © 2024 Brilliant Classics, licensed from Signum Records


Imagination, Humour and Depth

GERALD FENECH listens to oboe concertos by eighteenth century German composer Ludwig August Lebrun

'Nancy Ambrose King's flawless technique allows the music to flow with a strong sense of drama ...'


Ludwig August Lebrun (1752-1790) was an outstanding oboist who contributed some sweetly written oboe music to the instrument's repertoire. His father was an oboist and singers' rehearsal coach in the Mannheim court, renowned for having the most outstanding and innovative orchestra of the time. A 1756 register of Mannheim musicians states that he was a Belgian and the young boy learned the oboe from his father. In 1764 aged twelve, he was admitted to the Mannheim orchestra with the status of 'scholar', meaning he was learning orchestral playing by sitting in with the orchestra at least during rehearsals. He was made a full member in 1767 at the age of fifteen and stayed in the orchestra until his death.

Lebrun was an outstanding musician even by the standards of that elite orchestra, and this is shown by the fact that he also joined the specially picked group of chamber musicians who were drawn from the orchestra to perform at the court of Elector Carl Theodore and from the high salary that account books of the time show he was given. He was permitted to travel to give concerts and make guest appearances with other orchestras.

In 1778 he married the famous soprano Franziska Danzi, sister of the renowned composer Franz Danzi, and together they had two very important children: pianist Sophie and soprano Rosine Lebrun. Indeed, together they often toured the most important cities in Europe, such as London, Milan, Vienna, Berlin, Prague and Paris.

Ludwig was regarded as the finest oboist of his time and is recorded as the first to reach D and E above high C on that instrument as musically usable tones. He composed highly effective music for the instrument, including several concertos and pieces for chamber groups. He also wrote some music not involving oboe and some dance suites. His music is charming and undemanding on the listener but, sadly, he is still lingering in the shadow of his contemporaries. Hopefully, this album will be the start of a Lebrun renaissance.

Listen — Lebrun: Adagio (Oboe Concerto in G minor André No 2)
(97009 track 2, 0:00-0:42) ℗ 2003 Cala Records Ltd :

There are four concertos here: Nos 1 and 2 in D and G minor respectively and two in F, 53 and 7. There are delicate melodies as well as spectacular virtuosity in music filled with imagination, humour and depth, not to mention the occasional unexpected turn of phrase.

Listen — Lebrun: Rondeau (Oboe Concerto in F Sieber No 7)
(97009 track 6, 4:09-5:04) ℗ 2003 Cala Records Ltd :

These works all adhere to the standard three-movement form and all throughout this compilation the listener is regaled with a consistent stream of sparkling and cheerful creations. These are not miniature or insignificant pieces.

Listen — Lebrun: Allegro (Oboe Concerto in F Sieber No 3)
(97009 track 7, 1:09-2:09) ℗ 2003 Cala Records Ltd :

The opening G minor work is developed with the kind of pathos we associate with the key in Mozart's hands, and after two F major concertos. The album concludes with a poignant and stern D minor concerto punctuated by trumpet, drums and enclosing a noble 'Grazioso' slow movement where the oboe sings like an abandoned operatic heroine.

Listen — Lebrun: Grazioso (Oboe Concerto in D minor André No 1)
(97009 track 11, 3:48-4:39) ℗ 2003 Cala Records Ltd :

Nancy Ambrose King's flawless technique allows the music to flow with a strong sense of drama and Jeremy Swerling keeps a tight rein on proceedings, and yet he lets his Janáček Philharmonic express themselves with total flexibility and spontaneity. A fine advert for one of the Baroque's still neglected composers who deserves much closer attention. Sound and presentation are first-rate.

Copyright © 11 April 2024 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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