Artist/s: Austral Harmony: Jane Downer, oboe, oboe d’amore and recorder; Simon Debruslais, trumpets; Peter Hagen, harpsichord and organ.
Category: Classical, Early Music
Label: Chaconne CHAC 0809
Reviewed by Elizabeth Silsbury
“Baroque lover or not, share the pleasure of reading about the joy this expertly selected and played CD conveys. An elegant case lifts the spirits and the disc fufils the promise of its title.”
Jane Downer, famed for her haunting baroque oboe, dedicated this disc to her parents, Leslie and Jill Downer.
Harmonic Joy, indeed. How gifted were the musicians of that time. The composers are contemporaries of Johan Sebastian Bach, all worthy of his company.
Downer quotes baroque authority Adlung as finding it ‘pleasant ‘ to have an oboe seated behind the organ as though adding an extra stop, either with ‘music’ or improvising. She plays on most of the tracks, Simon Desbruslais adds his trumpets and Peter Hagen backs them on the chamber organ at St Andrew’s Church, Toddington.
The oboes and trumpets are predictably to the forefront but it is to the organist that the main credit is due. Hagen is the mainstay, always supporting, complementing, ornamenting unobtrusively but with style, occasionally opening the tremolo stop for a little final frisson. Listen for his light touch in the last movement of the Bach trio.
To Johann Ludwig Krebs, a distinguished student of Bach, goes the honour of making the opening statement in this well chosen selection, a happy Fantasia in C major for organ, oboe and trumpet that sets a mood of good humour and well being.
Four beguiling versions of Jesu meine Freude are offered. Two are by Krebs – the first with organ alone, then another with trumpet obbligato and oboe, followed by another with Downer switching to her oboe d’amore. Then the great JSB himself on this richly endowed chorale, finding a myriad of possibilities for invention in its simple (Ha!) lines. Downer takes him on, again with her loving reeds, meeting up in a reassuring Tierce de Picardy. Rounding off this bracket, Krebs again, his organ version finishing with some bold, crunchy fistfuls of notes.
From Gottfried August Homilius, Sonata for Oboe Solo con Basso in F major, four movements of melody and accompaniment to make baroquophiles rejoice. Alternately skittish and plangent, Downer finishes with a flourishing Vivace.
In another substantial piece, Organ Trio III BWV 527 in D Moll from Bach, Downer adds her oboe voice to a soulful Andante , an Adagio e dolce to make you weep and a jolly Vivace. The text does not make it clear whether her line is written or improvised, but either way it matches ‘every thing else’ as Adlung calls the score.
Organists revelled in playing around with chorales as long as their congregations lingered and many of the resulting chorale preludes became pieces in their own right.
Gottfried August Homilius and Krebs are both represented by Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gemein, the first getting extensive attention from trumpet and oboe, the second more focussed with oboe only.
In a single sample from Christian Gottill Tag the oboe expresses gratitude in Nun danket alle Got, the trumpet joins in for more Kauffman (he favoured floridity in his organ writing) in Ach Got, von Himmel sieh darein and Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ, and the disc ends with both soloists making a merry dance of Wie schonl leuchtet der Morgenstern.
So much to savour, in both content and delivery.
Let’s hope that Downer father and mother were flattered by their daughter’s choices. I certainly would be if I were they.