MOZART: Oboe Quartet
in F K370. Flute Quartet in C K285b. Quartet in G K285a. Oboe Quartet in
F after K496.
American Baroque (Stephen
Schultz, flute; Gonzalo X. Ruiz, oboe; Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin; Katherine
Kyme, viola; Tanya Tomkins, cello)
MUSIC & ARTS CD 1121 (F) (DDD) TT: 66:49
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American Baroque, whose five mem
bers are California-based, play period
insruments as beautifully as any group I’ve heard. Not just the
strings (which avoid the steely sound favored by fiddlers on “ancient” instruments
in Albion across the Atlantic) but the flute and oboe in this very welcome
music—a sorbet, if you will, after all the high-cholesterol
repertory reviewed on this and other websites. Gonzalo X. Ruiz, who is
oboist traces the origin of the F major Quartet, K.370, sold and published
posthumously (as Op. 101), although it very probably dated from 1781.
The flute quartets are part of the commission that a friend at Mannheim
wangled from a Dutch merchant during Mozart’s stay there in 1777.
But Mozart didn’t complete his end of the bargain and received only
partial payment, which rankled him no end. In a letter to “Papa” who
was nagging him from Salzburg, he wrote that the flute was “an instrument
which I cannot bear.” Yet in Paris, his eventual destination, one
of the few works he wrote was the concerto for flute and harp, K.299, that
has given delight ever since. The later F-major Oboe Quartet was published
as one of three for clarinet and strings collectively as Op. 87, “arranged” from
two violin sonatas and the piano trio, K.496. Ruiz feels this last to
be even more suitable for the oboe than the clarinet, and makes a persuasive
case in both his notes and his playing. A good deal of latterday scholarship
has gone into the correction of errors, in the finale especially, and
beneficiaries are we who hear it on this delectable CD.
The sound, “produced, engineered, edited and mastered “ by
Ruiz and his flutist-colleague, Stephen Scultz, was recorded in Oakland,
CA, and matches the playing in sweetness and suavity without sounding reticent
on the one hand or bloated on the other. It is a model in fact of how to
record period instruments as well as chamber music. Need I add “recommended”?
R.D. (October 2003)