March/April 2009, "Fanfare" magazine, USA
C.P.E.BACH Oboe Concertos/Alexei Utkin/Hermitage. I'm pleased that Caro Mitis SACDs are finally coming to Fanfare for review. The label showcases Russian musicians, particularly oboist Alexei Utkin, in primarily but not exclusively 18th-century music, on period and modern instruments. The technical team is Polyhymnia, the people behind the outstanding PentaTone SACDs from Holland. The label's name is Latin for "succulent fruit," and the dozen or so releases I've heard over the past couple of years are, indeed, succulent. The C.P.E. Bach collection at hand, though, while not deficient in any way, is a bit less ripe than the rest of this Russian label's catalog.
Emanuel Bach wrote two kinds of music: decorative Rococo pieces intended for polite company, and arresting, tempestuous works in which the music is whipped about from bar to bar, evoking a series of changing emotions. My preference is for the second style, mainly because it's so distinctive. Much of the music on this disc, though, has more to do with the first manner, and even the Sturm und Drang elements that do find their way into these scores seem rather tame here. (The D-Minor Trio Sonata for flute, oboe, and continuo, by the way, is a transcription of J.S. Bach's BWV 1036 Trio Sonata.)
Particularly in the first movement of the E-flat, Oboe Concerto, the youthful modern-instrument chamber orchestra opts for elegance rather than intensity. Is this a terrible fault? The chamber pieces are performed with great delicacy, and the wind-playing (mainly oboist Utkin) is limpid throughout. The audio quality defines "high resolution." This is in every respect a lovely production, but I wish it gave a better sense of the blood coursing beneath the beauty.