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Oboe Concerto in F major, Op 52

'Mozart & Krommer: Oboe Concertos' (CDH55080)
Mozart & Krommer: Oboe Concertos
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Movement 1: Allegro
Track 7 on CDH55080 [9'36] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Movement 2: Adagio
Track 8 on CDH55080 [4'52] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
Movement 3: Rondo
Track 9 on CDH55080 [5'02] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service

Oboe Concerto in F major, Op 52
Franz Vinzenz Krommer has been sorely neglected by posterity largely because of the eminence of his contemporaries. Widely respected in his lifetime, he was given honorary membership of musical seats of learning in Austria, France, Italy and Yugoslavia, and his many compositions achieved notable popularity. He composed nine symphonies (one lost), nine violin concertos, many other concerted works, and a vast amount of chamber music. His string quartets alone number eighty, a total exceeding Haydn’s, and some were considered to be of a quality to rival Beethoven’s. It is Beethoven, and to a lesser extent Mozart, whom we must thank for Krommer’s relative obscurity today, genius, as ever, being the enemy of mastery.

Born Frantisek Vincenc Kramár in Kamenice u Trebíce in 1759, the year of Handel’s death, Krommer abandoned his Bohemian name and adopted the more wieldy form after he moved to Vienna in 1795. Earlier, he had worked as a violinist and organist in Hungary, but most of his career was spent in Vienna where, from 1818 until his death in 1831, he was court composer to the Habsburg emperors, the last composer to hold that post. He was a friendly man, uninterested in intrigue and content to jog along in his secluded existence writing quartets to fulfil a steadily increasing demand. He was 34 before any of his works was published; doubtless the numerous publications which followed (Krommer’s opus numbers reach 110, of which André of Offenbach alone brought out fifty in thirty years) contained early works which found a ready market audience amongst listeners for whom Beethoven’s music was too progressive. Mozart’s was considered more ‘civilised’, more ‘proper’, and Krommer’s music, advancing along a similar path, was therefore more acceptable. The publication dates of the two oboe concertos, Op 37 in 1803 and Op 52 in 1805, offer little clue as to when they were composed.

Whereas Mozart in his concerto called for a smallish orchestra of pairs of oboes and horns with the strings, Krommer adds flute, bassoons, trumpets and timpani to both of his, yet with Krommer the orchestra builds an attractive framework for the solo episodes but, except in the slow movements, is content to provide rhythmic and harmonic accompaniment with minimal involvement in the musical argument. The later concerto shows an advance over Op 37 in this respect, and the orchestral tuttis in the first movement have a force reminiscent of Beethoven. Had Krommer ever composed an opera one feels that it might have contained a tragic aria similar to the Adagio of Op 52. Each concerto closes with a Rondo rich in contrasts and joyful melody.

from notes by Robert Dearling © 1990

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