The Concert Environment
The virtual “anti-corona” concert with Albrecht Mayer (oboe) and Kimiko Imani (piano) was performed as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. It consists of four prominent works by Johann Sebastian Bach arranged for the aforementioned instruments (“Albrecht Mayer Plays Bach’s Air”). The concert takes place at the Lichtenau Palace in Germany, and the surroundings feature classic internal architecture, large chandeliers, and two white statues.
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Listening to the Music
The first piece is Bach’s “Trio Sonata No. 4 in E Minor.” Regarding the rhythm, the piece has a moderate tempo, and the melody could be described as conjunct and smooth. There is a smooth harmonic combination between the piano and the oboe parts, and the piece has a sonata form. The timbre is bright and soothing, and the texture is homophonic, with the piano part as an accompaniment. Concerning dynamic levels, the piece shifts between moderately quiet and moderately loud and ends with a decrescendo. It sounds happy and melancholic at the same time. The work makes me think about an old person recollecting the happiest moments of their youth, and it is my favorite part of the program.
The second work is “Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer” by Bach. It has a walking pace tempo and a conjunct melody, there is no disharmonic harshness, and the form features the repetition of oboe/piano sections. There is a homophonic texture, and the timbre can be described as clear and thin. The piano part is quiet and moderately quiet, and the oboe sounds almost loud. It sounds melancholic, and my associations with the first and the second pieces are similar, but this work is not my favorite.
The third piece, Bach’s “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein,” has a smooth melody that is jumpy at times, a moderate tempo, and a bright and thin timbre. It also seems to have a homophonic texture and a two-part form with repeating sections. The harmonic combination is unstable in terms of harshness, and the oboe is much louder than the piano part. The music does not evoke any specific reflections, so it is my least favorite part, and I perceive it as a pompous piece.
The final piece, “Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068, II. Air” by Bach, has a slow tempo, a smooth melody, and a binary form. The harmonic combination seems to be smooth, and the texture is homophonic. The timbre is pure and soft, and the oboe sounds moderately loud, whereas the piano is rather quiet from time to time. For me, the work is peaceful and even sad, which makes me associate it with the act of regretting over the past, but I find it really pleasing to the ear.
The duo’s performance sounded very pleasing and professional to me, and I appreciated both musicians’ talent and the ability to collaborate and understand each other without words. The performers seemed quite comfortable and focused on playing their parts, but Albrecht Mayer’s physical exertion was evident. Despite that, I did not notice any mishaps since the structure of the pieces allowed the oboist to have enough rest to continue playing without mistakes.
The experience was not new to me since I had seen other virtual concerts. It was not different from my expectations, and I really enjoyed it because of the duo’s professionalism and the unusually cozy atmosphere that they managed to create. I would definitely watch the concert on my own initiative due to the high quality of the musicians’ performance. Also, I would recommend it to others, especially those loving Bach, because the concert presents new and exclusive arrangements of the composer’s famous pieces.
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“Albrecht Mayer Plays Bach’s Air and Other Pieces Exclusively on the Oboe d’Amore and English Horn.” YouTube, uploaded by DW Classical Music, 2020. Web.