If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s more often than not a badly-played oboe. Anyone who’s ever been in an orchestra will remember its unique tone, as all the other instruments tune themselves to it. By itself it can often sound querulous and reedy. However, Gerald McDonald’s performance at St. Cecilia’s Hall captured the full range of the instrument and backed by some impressive harpsichord playing, brought a little bit of the eighteenth century back to twenty first century Edinburgh.
The pieces were all written by oboists for oboists and this was demonstrated in the excellent transitions between the slower and faster movements. McDonald, playing on a historical oboe (as it existed in the eighteenth century) provided a clear excellent tone that was augmented by the superb acoustics of the hall. In particular his rendition of Domenico Dreyer’s Sonata in A Minor showed excellent fingerwork and range of dynamics. John Kitchen, accompanying on a 250-year-old harpsichord, showed subtlety and restraint. His own solo performance of Alessandro Scarlatti’s La Folia was the standout performance of the day. Having a smaller range than a piano can make the harpsichord sound insubstantial, but Kitchen’s brought out every inch of its dynamic power with style. While there were a few missed notes, this was a performance by two musicians at the peak of their respective fields, who managed to make what could have been obscure feel alive and exciting. One of the stand-out musical performances of the Fringe.