Monday, 26 September 2016

Handel - My Favourite Instrument - Löffler/Batzdorfer Hofkapelle

Rating: 3/5

Rather disappointing

I love a lot of Handel's instrumental music and the Baroque oboe could be said to be one of my favourite instruments, too, but I'm afraid I found this disc rather disappointing.

The programme is a selection of Handel's works for oboe plus some soprano arias which also feature the oboe prominently.  I was expecting to enjoy it immensely, but it got rather wearing after a while.  Partly this is because it is pretty relentlessly in minor keys, which is absolutely fine in moderate doses and shows the oboe's uniquely plangent tone very well, but I could have done with a little more of Handel's more flowing, mellifluous melodies to leaven it a little.

More seriously, the entire disc seems to be played in a forceful, dramatic, in-your-face style which, while I'm all for vigour and individuality in Baroque playing, really begins to feel as though I'm being harangued after a while.  All the arias are delivered in a very declamatory style and even the gentler, major-key pieces seem very spiky and lacking an essential sense of smooth flow.  This is a shame, because Xenia Löffler is plainly a very good oboist, but I think she could use a few lessons in fluidity of line from someone like Heniz Holliger or Frank de Bruine, and her ensemble need to rein in the attack a little where appropriate. 

All this is a personal view, of course.  Others may disagree but for me this is not one to listen to repeatedly.

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