Oboe Concerto in C

  1. Allegro
  2. Andante cantabile
  3. Vivace

Scoring:  Solo Oboe, Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Strings.

Composed March 13 - May 4, 2018.

The first considerable work I composed in 2018, this is a pretty standard Classical-style concerto, my second complete major work for solo instrument and orchestra. 

I consulted a baroque/classical oboist during and after working on this piece, and I was told that this piece was "considerably difficult, but not impossible" to play on the classical oboe – particularly the several high-Es I have called for, some of the passage work in the development section of the first movement, and the "frightful" series of descending chromatic trills I wrote in the middle of the second movement.  He also told me that some of the difficulty would be mitigated on the modern oboe, which should come as little surprise - the limitations of 18th Century instruments were what prompted instrument makers to "improve" them during the first half of the 19th Century.  Finally, he said that the writing was in a bravura style reminiscent of 18th Century French composers of oboe concerti, which I found interesting, because I was not familiar with any of the composers he mentioned.  At any rate, I wouldn't mind at all any feedback from oboists on the idiomatic qualities and difficulty of this piece, for future reference.  Any other feedback is naturally welcome as well.  I have provided a cadenza, but of course the soloist is welcome to compose or improvise his/her own.

In the interest of full disclosure, since good composers borrow and great ones steal, I have appropriated four measures of melody from Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) in the B theme of the Rondo (final movement). 

Enjoy!

https://soundcloud.com/j-lee-graham/sets/oboe-concerto-in-c   

OboeConcertoinC-1.Allegro_pdf.pdf

OboeConcertoinC-2.Andantecantabile_pdf.pdf

OboeConcertoinC-3.Vivace_pdf.pdf

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Replies

  • Hi Joseph,

    Sadly you haven't had much of a reaction on CF to date - possibly because you've posted all 3 movements together and many of us are so busy doing our own stuff we don't have the time to comment in any detail. I'm going to do this movement by movement, possibly spread over a couple or more days. So, the opening Allegro - very calming and a pleasure to listen to. You appear to me to have placed yourself firmly in the late Haydn era - both harmonically and in your use of the instruments deployed. Initially I thought this no more than a pastiche, albeit a very good one - but on reflection that's maybe a little unkind. I like to be intellectually challenged by what I listen to in the modern era whilst simultaneously experiencing an emotional charge of some sort - the latter is there as your composition is easy to listen to, mildly romantic and peaceful - very relaxing whilst not being intellectually taxing in any way. Note, this is not a criticism, just an observation as to how I personally react to it.

    Many of us will strive for years and not be able to do what you've done here - it shows a good appreciation of form and harmony combined with a nice melodic line - I must look at your profile and see how you have evolved musically - I suspect you are well qualified and have a finely tuned appreciation of what does and doesn't work.

    The quality of the recording is interesting - the best sound being the horn. I find the oboe lacks a bit of depth and the bassoons are rather too thin and reedy. This of course leads to my asking what software/system/methods do you use? My personal preference is for Sibelius modified by NotePerformer 3, so I am slightly biased in that direction having spent so many thousands of hours using it. There are others here who spend much time beavering away with a DAW to produce some really excellent stuff - a lack of time precludes me from following their path.

    Anyway, I will certainly listen to the next two movements and look forward to doing so. I suspect there may be some fireworks in the third movement.

    Incidentally, one of the reasons I thought 'pastiche' was because you have written the dates on your PDF score in Italian - presumably there is a good reason for this?

    Many thanks for posting such a pleasant piece.

    Stephen

  • Thank you, Stephen, for a frank and thoughtful review, and for your very kind complements.    

    It is gratifying that upon reflection you seem to have decided not to consign my work to the ash heap of pastiche, recognizing it as unkind, and I’m grateful.  I’ve always bristled at the term.  I suppose my music in historical styles might be considered pastiche by some, depending on one’s understanding of the term.  Although pastiche ostensibly seeks to celebrate that which imitates, I see the term as derogatory, indicating either an attempt to emulate an historical style without really knowing what one is doing (typical even of accomplished composers), or deliberately employing modern techniques or anachronisms (for example, choosing to write horn parts for fully chromatic instruments while knowing they weren’t available in the period).  Since in all humility I definitely know what I’m doing after over 40 years of this, and I employ the same compositional techniques my models did, I see what I’m doing in historical styles as authentic rather than pastiche; in areas where pastiche fails, I’m fairly certain I succeed.  Authenticity as I mean it here is the quality of a work that renders it virtually indistinguishable from music actually of the period, and I accomplish this almost invariably; having had some of my work performed successfully by an historically informed ensemble only adds to its credibility.  What’s more is I strive to imbue my historicist work with my own artistic sensibilities within the confines of the style, because not to do so would also be pastiche.  Some people subscribe only to the bare-bones dictionary definition of pastiche, i.e. “an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period,” and that’s fine if one only wants to see things in black and white; but for me, there needs and deserves to be a distinction between pastiche and authenticity.  Despite its good intentions, pastiche is on its face dismissible, where authenticity is not.

    To answer your question about my software/system/methods, I use Finale as my notation software, with its resident Garritan Personal Orchestra sounds through its Aria library player.  I’ve never been 100% satisfied with the sounds, but like you, I don’t have the time to mess too much with it, and I doubt I’d be a very good sound engineer anyway.  As for my dates and so forth on my score being in Italian, that’s again merely an attempt to do as my models usually did – titling their works in Italian, it being considered at the time the primary language of music and music-related things.  I suppose I put on airs a little by so doing, but I confess it makes me smile.  Did you notice “Partitura” in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, instead of “Score”?  Same deal there.

    I do hope you get around to hearing the other movements, and if you do, I’ll look forward to reading what you have to say about them.  Thank you very much again! 

  • Joseph,

    I think I see where you're coming from regarding the term 'pastiche' and you have noted that in my original response I modified my view and suggested that not many of us on CF could achieve what you've done here. I remain intrigued in discovering what motivates you to follow this particular path of utilising the compositional techniques of your models.

    I have for many years been of the opinion (recently modified) that there are sufficient variations available to keep we composers occupied for another millennium or so working within the confines of what might loosely be termed 'traditional' harmonic structures. Recently an erudite member of CF argued on one of my posts (The Road to Perdition) that we should perhaps strive to write music that is 'a reflection of our times'. This galvanised me into action causing me to attempt to do just that in that particular composition (which is a halfway house between traditional and modernistic harmonies fused to make a credible whole) - great fun, and the process of composing it taught me a great deal. So you will understand why I'm interested in your motivation for what you do.

    Anyhow, I'm going to listen to your Andante Cantabile movement now and will comment later on.

  • I had time to listen to the first movement and am growing accustomed to 'listening through' the software. I felt that the composition was every bit up to your usual accomplished standard, easy to listen to, the solo oboe much in keeping with the period - they must have had fun times with those primitive barely-keyed oboes!

    So I can make little comment. The scoring is very balanced, the development engaging. I felt it closer to Donizetti's early concert work. Classical form is so refreshing! I hope to get back to the following movements later on.

  • Well, here I am again having just listened to the 2nd movement. Like Dane above I too had to listen through the software - particularly at the beginning where the wind instruments overpower the strings leaving something of an imbalance. I can see the oboe player in my mind's eye making so much of this and can imagine what it would sound like if played with passion, with lots of small stresses, some rubato and tenuto to bring the piece wholly to life. I must admit it has taken me some years to develop my listening skills to the extent that I can override the deficiencies of software rendition, and to fully appreciate the notes as they might be played live.

    This is a very pleasant movement and a joy to listen to. My only small criticism is the overall balance of the piece - if one looks at the acoustic wave whilst listening on YouTube one can see that the climax (if it can so be called) appears close to the beginning, (at least it is so in terms of volumetric output rather than height of register) - I humbly suggest that you add a minor climax somewhere towards the middle of the piece and 'the' climax closer to the end - this is easily achieved and I think the movement would benefit as a result. I appreciate this is a highly personal view and you and others might disagree entirely with it.

    Again, an enjoyable listen and thank you for posting it.

    Stephen 

  • Agreed, Joseph. You seem to have perfected this style.

    I was attracted to this paragraph:

    "To answer your question about my software/system/methods, I use Finale as my notation software, with its resident Garritan Personal Orchestra sounds through its Aria library player.  I’ve never been 100% satisfied with the sounds, but like you, I don’t have the time to mess too much with it, and I doubt I’d be a very good sound engineer anyway.  As for my dates and so forth on my score being in Italian, that’s again merely an attempt to do as my models usually did – titling their works in Italian, it being considered at the time the primary language of music and music-related things.  I suppose I put on airs a little by so doing, but I confess it makes me smile.  Did you notice “Partitura” in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, instead of “Score”?  Same deal there."

    I use Sibelius. As you know, it is only the goal of notation software to produce.....notation. I know of folks who have spent several hundred if not thousands of dollars adding sounds to Sibelius (and Finale) in an effort to make them sound like a DAW. I go to the NotePerformer website once and a while to listen to their examples. There are some things that are better and some things that are ...lacking. Enough to where I'm not really interested in spending even the comparatively low cost. There are, however many things within Sibelius (and I suspect also Finale) that improve the end result greatly. They take time, but I think very much worth it. Many are not in the manual. They're there waiting to be used. Most people don't even know it. It's not about being a sound engineer, but rather using what you may already know about how instruments work and sound. As well as how music works.

    You must have a very wealthy patron indeed to be lucky enough to have such a large group to work with. How many string players are there?

  • Hi Joseph, am I correct in saying the development section (in the first Mvnt) starts at exactly the 4:00 mark? The sudden harmonic shift was lovely. Lovely apt orchestration. Personally I would like to hear simpler harmonic lines and more daring harmonic changes, but I admit that would be going out of genre. Many thanks for sharing.

    Mike

  • Bob,

    I see you haven't changed your views about NP since the last time I read them. You might be aware that many CF members have commented on the relatively authentic orchestral sounds I manage to produce with a combination of Sibelius and NP3...I must say I'm pleased with the combination and consider Sibelius to be vastly improved in all aspects with the addition of NP3.

    Incidentally, I think it was from one of your posts (?) that I learnt about the expandability of the mixer in Sib...it makes a great difference utilising that particular tool so, if it was you, many thanks. Can you indicate one or two other advantageous elements within Sib that aren't included in the manual?...I need all the help I can get.

    Stephen

    Bob Porter said:

    Agreed, Joseph. You seem to have perfected this style.

    I was attracted to this paragraph:

    "To answer your question about my software/system/methods, I use Finale as my notation software, with its resident Garritan Personal Orchestra sounds through its Aria library player.  I’ve never been 100% satisfied with the sounds, but like you, I don’t have the time to mess too much with it, and I doubt I’d be a very good sound engineer anyway.  As for my dates and so forth on my score being in Italian, that’s again merely an attempt to do as my models usually did – titling their works in Italian, it being considered at the time the primary language of music and music-related things.  I suppose I put on airs a little by so doing, but I confess it makes me smile.  Did you notice “Partitura” in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, instead of “Score”?  Same deal there."

    I use Sibelius. As you know, it is only the goal of notation software to produce.....notation. I know of folks who have spent several hundred if not thousands of dollars adding sounds to Sibelius (and Finale) in an effort to make them sound like a DAW. I go to the NotePerformer website once and a while to listen to their examples. There are some things that are better and some things that are ...lacking. Enough to where I'm not really interested in spending even the comparatively low cost. There are, however many things within Sibelius (and I suspect also Finale) that improve the end result greatly. They take time, but I think very much worth it. Many are not in the manual. They're there waiting to be used. Most people don't even know it. It's not about being a sound engineer, but rather using what you may already know about how instruments work and sound. As well as how music works.

    You must have a very wealthy patron indeed to be lucky enough to have such a large group to work with. How many string players are there?

    Oboe Concerto in C
    Allegro Andante cantabile Vivace Scoring:  Solo Oboe, Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Strings. Composed March 13 - May 4, 2018. The first consi…
  • Hi Michael,

    If you read my post carefully you will see I did not criticise the composition for being mere pastiche - that would indeed be a very rude thing to do...not my style at all:)

    michael diemer said:

    It is rare to hear such a finished composition on this forum. some have criticized it for being pastiche, but it's just so well done! you can't help but keep listening. I could hear this on the radio and be told it was by so and so from the 18th century, and I wouldn't  bat an eyelash.  You have complete grasp of the forms, and you have something to say within them. The passages for oboe are very effective, and have the embellishments appropriate to the period (although I couldn't say exactly what they are; I just know them when I hear them). In short, you are doing what few can do, namely write music from another era that sounds for all the world like it really is from that era. And it's not just an academic exercise, and this is the  most important point: It's excellent music. The forms are just that, it's what you put in them matters, and the sophistication with which you do so. You succeed on all levels. Especially form in the larger sense; not just the specific forms of the classical period, but the more important concept of musical form itself: The instinctive ability to create compelling melodies, harmonize them effectively; vary the metrical interest effectively; balance the orchestra and the soloist; and construct an overall master form for the whole piece which makes sense musically and is pleasant to listen to. A hundred Bravos to you, Sir!

    Oboe Concerto in C
    Allegro Andante cantabile Vivace Scoring:  Solo Oboe, Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Strings. Composed March 13 - May 4, 2018. The first consi…
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