Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra

George Rochberg

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
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Quick Overview

In this concerto, I have made no effort to exploit the extremes of the oboe because, as I see it, the main reason for writing a piece is to say something, not to concentrate on the purely technical characteristics of an instrument. Except for a few tuttis, the oboe is prominent throughout, although the writing for the solo is not virtuosic in the usual sense; rather, the work demands an expressive virtuosity from the soloist.

To my ear, the oboe has a special voice in its purely expressive, plangent quality, its probing kind of singing. Of all the woodwinds, I think the oboe is the most full of personality. This concerto was designed for Joseph Robinson, and while writing it I had very much in mind his approach to the instrument, which is lyric and involves wonderful phrasing and marvelous tone.

Formally, the concerto is rhapsodic, cast in four parts played without pause. The first and last sections present the essential pool of ideas out of which the expressive aspects of the work derive; however, neither has only one characteristic or quality throughout, because each divides into smaller units of gesture. The first section, a "poco andante" with two middle parts, is mostly slow music ? poetic, lyric, singing ? while the word "scherzo" conveys the character of the second: lively, ironic, with constantly shifting meters. The Concerto?s third section, a march, is again a kind of ironic music, but for the most part in regular meter. In the second and third parts I have tried to reveal aspects of the oboe that are opposed to the plangent ? satiric, comic, slightly acerbic; nevertheless, great seriousness is involved in both.

There are two oboe cadenzas, occurring between the first and second and the third and fourth sections. They are entirely different in character, the first being a kind of expansive arioso, the second taking its cue from the atmosphere of the march. The work?s final part primarily slow and reflective, contains references to ideas from the first section, although none of the material returns in exactly the same way. My feeling is that this music deepens the expressive world of the opening. The final twenty bars are a kind of coda with quiet, delicate tone-clusters, and the piece ends softly, facing away.

I think of my Oboe Concerto as being the post poetic of my recent efforts, and I have no hesitation in terming it a romantic work. Although the writing tends to be highly chromatic, there is, overall, a strong sense of tonal direction in line and harmony.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the New York Philhamonic
Composition Date 1983
Duration 00:18:00
Orchestration Solo Ob.; 2 0 2 2 - 4 2 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Joseph Robinson, soloist, Zubin Mehta, conductor, December 13, 1984

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