Alex Klein; New Brandenburg Collegium; Anthony Newman
Cedille FOUNDation CDR 7003 (www.cedillerecords.org)
One of the most prolific composers of his time, Antonio Vivaldi (1675-1741) wrote a total of 14 concerti for oboe, plus an additional three for two oboes. This sampling of eight of them, from one of the world's finest oboists, is a recent re-release of material originally recorded in 1993. Alex Klein is probably best known as a former principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony, a position he held from 1995 to 2004, when he left the job due to focal dystonia, a neurological condition affecting the muscles in some of his fingers. (He has since recovered, and I had the pleasure of hearing him perform live in Kitchener a couple of years ago).
In addition to composing, Vivaldi also taught music at the Ospedale della Pietá, an orphanage for girls in Venice. In the insightful liner notes with this recording, Klein suggests that these works were perhaps written for these girls, with their particular talents and personalities in mind. Given the technical challenges of these concerti and the limitations of the oboe of the time, if this is true, these girls must have been true prodigies! Speculation aside, this recording presents these works in their best light, played here by a true virtuoso. Klein's technical mastery of the instrument is staggering – even the most virtuosic passages are executed with flawless precision, giving an impression of total ease; and embedded within the most technically demanding sections, Klein manages a sensitivity and subtlety of expression that only a true master can convey. This recording deserves undivided listening attention to fully appreciate the complexity and nuance of both the composer's work and this first class performance.