I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Zelenka: Six sonatas for oboes (and violin) with basso continuo

Screen Shot 2012 09 08 at 5 32 09 PM This recording features a historically-informed approach from Dombrecht, Ponseele, and Friends. This release came out on Accent in 1999. I enjoyed reading this review on Amazon about the recording, which was new to me until most recently. My go-to recording has been the one recorded by Heinz Holliger on ECM New Series. For one, the Holliger recording is far more clear and well-done. But unlike his effort decades earlier with the Camerata Bern of the same pieces using a historical approach, a full-on "modern" interpretation is taken in the ECM recording, save for the use of harpsichord for the basso continuo. I've liked the Holliger recording, for one, for bringing to light a pretty obscure baroque composer's art, and all the athletic stamina that's required to pull it off. Holliger and Co. came across as a good effort. Dombrecht's big difference is the use of baroque instruments and/or copies, and he likewise adopts somewhat slower tempos in the faster movements. I find the "baroque" sound more sympathetic to Zelenka's music, and I don't mind the clicky-ness of the baroque instruments. But the tempo differences, at times, seem to serve the music better when the tempi are faster. Zelenka's melody lines are contrapuntal and are written out in big, expansive phrases. It what makes the music all the more remarkable. And when the tempo is slower, you almost might forget what the opening was like! My review in 2005 reviewed the Holliger release on ECM. My notes indicate that it too was a 1999 recording. Speed and the well-recorded sound put Holliger ahead, while the Dombrecht recording holds its own on a proper sound-world known to Zelenka. I don't find any one of them clearly compelling over the other, with one clearly being superior. Having played a little oboe, I know these pieces are tough, and I can imagine they may throw the baroque oboist an even steeper challenge. Dombrecht is a well-respected figured in historical oboe circles, as is his partner in this recording, Marcel Ponseele.

My advice is if you can't imagine throwing away baroque tunings and the sound of historical instruments, acquire the Zelenka by Dombrecht on Accent. If you want the superior, cleaner recording, with more daring tempos, Holliger is in order. No matter, both these releases are superior to Holliger's first run on the Archiv label, with a pseudo-historical approach. Perhaps it was more honest playing it "Modern" in his second round, with a full-on vibrato violin in the 3rd (b-flat major) sonata to differentiate his recording from those by historical specialists.

My gratitude goes to the author of the Folding Harpsichord blog for bringing this recording to my attention. He's a real connoisseur of Zelenka's music.

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