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Fono Forum 02/2006
Jörg Hillebrand

Oboe in Dialogue and Contention
Concertos for oboe and chamber music with oboe have brought musicians and producers together in the past few weeks, resulting in numerous new and first-time recordings. Some of these use multi-channel techniques to further enhance the noble timbre of the instrument.
The solo-repertoire for oboe in the second half of the 18th century was dominated by quartets with string trio. Three such quartets, each consisting of a dynamic allegro first movement, an elegiac second movement and a sprightly finale, were composed by Louis Massonneau (1766-1848), a Frenchman born in Kassel, who was the Kapellmeister at the court of Schwerin for many years. These works are fully embedded in the Viennese classical tradition and challenge each of the musicians as equal partners. So it is only fitting that the sound engineer recorded Ensemble Piu with the utmost attention to balance. Oboist Andreas Gosling, a member of the Essen Philharmonic, cultivates a tone quality of classical, unimposing beauty.

Rohrblatt 4/2005
Diether Steppuhn

…Massonneau must have been quite familiar with the works of his contemporaries: the middle movements of the first two quartets, adagio and andante respectively, with their pizzicato accompaniments, so flattering for the soloist, are reminiscent of similarly frugal string sequences from Mozart’s Violin Concerto KV 216 or Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in E major. The first adagio contains an unexpected minor section and calls for the oboist to play sudden leaps into the highest range, a bravura feat nowadays, but even more difficult back then, before the addition of the octave key. The andante middle movement of the third quartet in C major, also conceived as a set of variations, is also remarkable in that it allows the strings some brilliant solo sequences while demanding the highest technique from the oboist with runs of 32nd notes. The finales all are consistently merry, the F major quartet featuring a set of variations for contrast. There is even one point at which the oboist is expected to produce a sforzato E in the third octave!
These three pretty quartets, recorded here (two of them for the first time) on this SACD in pleasing spatial technique, are small musical gems from a time in which, in addition to all the music we are familiar with today, an endless amount of „also very nice“ music was composed, not only charming audiences of that time, but also opening our eyes today to the much broader range of smaller and larger masterpieces produced in the classical Viennese era and afterward.

Crescendo 07/2005

The son of a French kitchen chef, Louis Massonneau grew up in the courts of German nobles and later worked for them as a violinist, composer and Kapellmeister. Hence the courtly spirit - noble, elegant and sometimes a bit self-indulgent – which infuses his quartets for oboe and string trio. These three works, two of them recorded here for the first time, were composed most probably in 1798, and belong to the classical Viennese tradition without, however, bowing to the arising spectre of the Mozartean spirit. Still, they display a richness of ideas that transcends mere musical pleasantry. In the performance of Ensemble Piu, a conversational dialogue between strings and oboe unfolds, with plenty of opportunities provided by Massonneau for virtuoso development.

Ensemble - Magazin für Kammermusik 5/2005
Georg Waßmuth

Louis Massonneau was an industrious man. Besides numerous manuscripts from his hand, the State Library of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern houses his „Ludwigsluster Diarium“, a minutely detailed list of all musical works performed „in teutschen Landen" from 1803 to 1837. Massonneau’s oboe quartets are definitely not „just“ pleasant music for tea time. The string trio and the solo instrument interact within a concentrated musical context imbued throughout with spirit and intellect. Oboist Andreas Gosling and Ensemble Piu masterfully succeed in shaking the dust off these small treasures.

RBB Kulturradio 23.09.2005
Cornelia Schönberg

This new release attracts attention immediately with the prospect of hearing first-time recordings, namely of the 2nd and 3rd quartets. In addition to the anticipation of a hitherto unknown piece of music in very attractive instrumentation, one is also admonished to recall a period of German music history which has itself been almost forgotten – the history of the court orchestra in Mecklenburg-Schwerin….
The oboe quartets were composed as a cycle, all in the same three-movement form, fast-slow-fast. Massonneau was inspired by the musical liteature of his time: he was not an innovator, but he brought his own special talent to the task. He had an ear for catchy melodies, he shifts cleverly through key signatures both close and distant, he injects small surprises into the musical flow, and even displays a Haydn-like wit. And the best part is, none of the movements is a disappointing letdown, as so often seems to happen with the "minor" masters. The parts are each given equal importance – this is not just oboe"plus accompaniment"….
Ensemble Piu, consisting of musicians from orchestras in Northrhein-Westphalia, do a fine job of it. Oboist Andreas Gosling has the necessary virtuosity to provide the point of focus, yet he blends harmoniously with the three strings. The musicians’ efforts on behalf of the little-known Massonneau, including this recording (issued with modern technology as a SACD), are praiseworthy.

RHEINISCHE POST vom Samstag, 20.11.2004
CD-TIPP (345)

My cousin Petra is a fine oboist, and even as a kid, I listened dreamily as she produced music from her instrument that would quiet wild animals. Unfortunately, she would complain, there is just not as much beautiful literature for oboe as, say, for piano.
Now I can give her some solace, for I have discovered something delicious for solo oboe – seven Bagatelles by scarcely-known English composer Gordon Jacob (1895 – 1984). These are small musical gems: emotionally moving, always song-like, some serious, some clever and perky, which imbue the world with gentle pastoral aromas.
This all-Jacob CD by Ensemble Piu (with brilliant oboist Andreas Gosling) portrays the composer with sensitivity and care (he was a student of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Adrian Boult, and taught later at the Royal College himself). Jacob was the antithesis of the avant-garde musician: his music is conceived first and foremost for the ear – "who’s afraid of the major third?"He had a streak of shepherd in his blood, evident in the pastoral beauty of his oboe quartet.
Incidentally, Jacob never played the oboe nor any other instrument: one hand was useless. Yet he knew so much about everything that he could write books on orchestration. That’s what you call hard-earned expertise.

Wolfram Goertz

"www.Klassik-Heute.de" schreibt am 07.09.2004:

He was an un-modern contemporary, this Englishman Gordon Jacob, born in the 19th century and dying in 1984 at a Methusalan age, to the end unimpressed and uninfluenced by the dogmas of the avant-garde. Quite the opposite: he rejected the "intellectual snobbism of some progressive artists" and regarded advanced music with skepticism and ill-humour. "The day that melody is discarded altogether, you may as well pack up music", he once said. Nevertheless, in Great Brittain, he was counted among the nation’s established masters, teaching for decades at the Royal College of Music in London, and being honoured with a commission to compose music for the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II.
The interesting programme of Ensemble Piu portrays Gordon Jacob as a gifted miniaturist, presenting his Bagatelles for oboe solo, a late work from 1969, a first-time recording of the Six Shakesperian Sketches for string trio (1946), each of which is preceded by a quotation from the Bard, and, last but not least, the oboe quartet composed in 1938. Nostalgic charm and clever originality are kept in balance in Jacob’s music, which certainly has its share of eccentric ideas and off-beat humour to surprise us, yet always stays grounded in the old-fashioned ideal of formal beauty and elegance. The outstanding instrumentalists of Ensemble Piu obviously feel quite at home in this highly cultivated musical sphere. In every phrase, whether elegiac, dance-like or comical, the musicians maintain the proper measure of noble British decorum. They deserve an expression of unqualified praise. The only fault on this CD is its all-too short playing time of only 43 minutes.
- Künstlerische Qualität: 9, Klangqualität: 9, Gesamteindruck: 9
(Bewertungsskala 1 - 10)

Wolfgang Stähr

The periodical "Stereoplay" wrote in the September 20004 issue:

Gordon Jacob (1895 – 1984) always stood in the shadows of his British contemporaries Elgar, Holst and, later, Britten. In his own country, he was highly regarded, first and foremost as a teacher of composition: Malcolm Arnold was one of his pupils. His mastery of the craft of instrumentation was so outstanding that his own teacher Vaughan Williams often consulted him, and famous instrumentalists of the time commissioned him to compose works for their instruments. Thus was the Quartet for oboe and string trio composed in 1938 for the legendary Leon Goosens, as were the seven Bagatelles for oboe solo in 1969 for the renowned Sarah Francis. The inventive “Six Shakespearian Sketches” for string trio (1946) testify to Jacob’s involvement with writing stage music for Shakespeare plays. The result is a highly attractive programme of musical rarities (the trio and quartet are new in the German catalogue), performed by the ambitious Ensemble Piu (with the excellent oboist Andreas Gosling of Essen!) with all the requisite musical light-footedness and delicate sonority.
- Interpretation: 9, Sound: 9, Repertoire: 9 (on a scale of 1 – 10)

Holger Arnold

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