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Bohuslav Martinů

Bohuslav Martinů Composer

Oboe Concerto, H.353

Performances: 4
Tracks: 12
  • Oboe Concerto, H.353
    Year: 1955
    Genre: Concerto
    Pr. Instrument: Oboe
    • 1.Moderato
    • 2.Poco Andante
    • 3.Poco Allegro
One of his late works, Martinu's oboe concerto lacks movement headings, but it is by no means the thorny, highly intellectual sort of 1950s music that might suggest. It's quite traditional, both in terms of its fast-slow-fast structure and in terms of the composer's personal aesthetic; the style is instantly recognizable as Martinu's: broad, wistful melodies soar over percolating rhythms with the orchestral piano providing particular color. The first movement begins with a fairly quick, bright, perambulating introduction, a characteristic Martinu ostinato that here stretches out and relaxes. The oboe enters with a measured, pastoral melody that grows more wistful as it continues. The orchestra introduces a moment of agitation, which nudges the oboe into perkier material. The soloist picks up the animated orchestral theme from the movement's beginning and eases the section toward its conclusion. The slow second movement starts with a long, dark theme primarily for strings. The oboe wanders in with a distressed, chromatic melody over a shimmering piano accompaniment. The strings offer a broader, reassuring passage, but the oboe returns in as great distress as before, the piano again underpinning what otherwise would pass for a cadenza. At last, the oboe joins the strings in a slow, elegiac version of the movement's opening theme. A rumbling piano launches the last movement's jittery folk dance, the oboe bouncing over orchestral ostinatos and then, after an agitated orchestral build-up, enjoying a full cadenza. The orchestra returns, initially bright and animated, but veering into darker material before the oboe dances the score back into the light toward an upbeat, sometimes whimsical coda.

Oboists around the world immediately took it up as a new addition to their standard repertoire. Martinu wrote the concerto for Czech oboist Jiri Tancibudek, who asked to keep the manuscripts with the cadenzas. The score, published after Martinu's death, was, therefore, missing these. Comparing the published version with his manuscript, Tancibudek noticed an unusual amount of other errors in it. In the 1980s, he and James Brody at Indiana University published a list of corrections with some interpretational suggestions.

© James Reel, All Music Guide
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