Albrecht Mayer - In Venice
This first appears to be a boring star vehicle: the copious artwork shows Albrecht Mayer in all kinds of implausible computer-generated poses around Venice, and the booklet-note is predominantly about how great the artist is (does Decca think we are not trusted to make up our own minds?). However, the programme is mostly a well chosen comparison of Vivaldi with some of his finest Venetian contemporaries. Moreover, it would be sad if modern-instrument practitioners of such high quality were discouraged from their obvious enthusiasm for this repertoire, and it turns out that Mayer plays this music tremendously well.
It feels a little strange to hear the timbre of a modern oboe accompanied by small “Baroque” forces including only single strings, theorbo and keyboard. Mayer’s fluent and smooth playing in the Vivaldi concerto seems a bit old-fashioned, and the central Larghetto features noble use of dotted string accompaniment and a prominent organ continuo: this could almost be Karajan conducting the so-called “Albinoni’s Adagio”. Mayer’s playing is packed to the hilt with rubato but his handling of lines is attractively poetic. His playing initially seems to dominate the rest of the instruments, but the balance of sound improves.
Alessandro Marcello’s D minor Concerto, reputedly among the earliest concertos for oboe, has a much finer and subtler blend between the soloist and his New Seasons Ensemble. The musicians give a vivacious performance of Antonio Lotti’s Oboe d’amore Concerto, which is perhaps the most striking and melodically charming of the five works. Best of all, there is a tender performance of an Adagio that really is composed by Albinoni.