Oboe Concertos from Bohemia Claves

Déjà Review: this review was first published in January 2003 and the recording is still available.

Oboe Concertos from Bohemia
Joseph Fiala (1750-1816)
Concerto in B-flat major for Oboe and Orchestra
Franz Krommer (1759-1831)
Concerto in F-major for Oboe and Orchestra, Op. 37
Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda (1801-1866)
Concertino in F-major for Oboe and Orchestra, Op.110
Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959)
Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra
Ingo Goritzki (oboe)
Polish Chamber Orchestra/Wojciech Rajski
rec. 1990, Salle de la Philharmonie in Rzeszow, Poland
Claves 50-9018 [76]

This disc traverses around two hundred years of Czech/Bohemian oboe concertos and very good it is too; I found it a particularly rewarding concert in the way in which it places Martinů in his national and developmental context as opposed to the more typical twentieth century programme. The informative booklet notes rightly identify the fact that these pieces (and their respective composers) all “live and breathe Eastern folk music” and that “the influence of dance is omnipresent in their rhythms”.

The concertos of Fiala and Krommer, by virtue and probably necessity of the time in which they were written, are closely related to prevailing classical models. Fiala was an intimate of Mozart and the connection is not difficult to spot in the music; I was particularly taken by the dancing third movement. Krommer is perhaps better known than Fiala but both composer’s works impress, and in Krommer’s case I found the central Adagio especially fine.

It is the Kalliwoda and Martinů pieces that make this disc such an outstanding success though; the former, who counted Schumann among his admirers, is represented by a splendid concertino which, without question, looks forward to the advances made by Smetana and Dvořák in their integration of folk idioms into the classical/romantic soundworld. The closing Vivace depicts the “festivities at a Bohemian fair” in a highly entertaining and vivid manner, reminding me not only of his aforementioned countrymen but also, particularly in the solo oboe work, of some lighter Scandinavian music. This echoes, once again, the connection between the folk traditions of two quite separate parts of Europe – check out the music of Norwegian “jazz” saxophonist Jan Garbarek or perhaps Thomas Adès juxtapositions of Grieg and Janáček, if you doubt this assertion).

Martinů is a composer held in very high esteem by this reviewer and neither the piece here nor its execution gives me any reason to change that opinion. Perhaps even more so than the lovely Rhapsody Concerto (for viola), the equivalent work for oboe is quintessential Martinů. The seamless blending of American, French and Czech influences that illuminates his greatest works (including, of course, the symphonies) is clearly evident. After a rhythmic “open air” first movement, a tender but brooding centrepiece sets the scene for a musical “homecoming” in the finale, revealing a kinship with Kalliwoda and other better known Bohemian musical heroes.

The Polish Chamber Orchestra and the soloist Ingo Goritzki, although not playing “native” music, are fully inside the pieces recorded here and the disc is a complete success on every level. Highly recommended – the Martinů is unmissable.

Neil Horner

Help us financially by purchasing from

Presto Music