- Variationen über ein eingenes Thema, for violin or oboe & piano, Op. 39
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This 2016 release by oboist Albrecht Mayer is an anthology, containing selections from his previous recordings dating back as far as 2003. Unlike most such albums, where you do better to go back to the originals and find a more cohesive concept, this one, with selections picked by Mayer himself, works on its own terms. The title indicates the organizing principle: in many of the pieces, the oboe is a stand-in for a singing voice, and the strength of the idea is suggested by the fact that Rachmaninov's "Vocalise" is actually not included. Mayer structures the program well, setting the mood with a pair of well-known pavanes and a couple of other lyrical pieces, including a genuine Schumann oboe work that you may not have heard, before the first aria appears. That one is by Mozart, and there are a few Romantic melodies, but most of Mayer's "arias" are Baroque selections, and he introduces gentle contrasts by including oboe-readied Baroque instrumental movements among the arias without breaking the consistent, fetchingly lyrical tone. Mayer's oboe does truly seem to be on the edge of breaking out into words at times: sample the "Esurientes implevit bonis" from the "Magnificat in D major, BWV 243" for an impression of his liquid, expressive tone. Mayer effectively switches off between symphonic, Baroque ensemble, and piano accompaniment without losing the thread, but the sudden appearance of the King's Singers in Humperdinck's "Abends will ich schlafen gehn" (from "Hänsel und Gretel") may have you reaching for the remote to see if the program has changed. Deutsche Grammophon's remastering job is reasonable, though, and this will serve the needs of anyone looking to sample Mayer's substantial talent.