for oboe and piano
by John Harbison (b.1938) - American composer
The Oboe Concerto was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony for its principal oboist, William Bennett, who gave its first performance in December 1992. The titles of the movements suggest Baroque forms, and the oboist often leads small concertino groups, in Baroque manner. But the concerto present a constantly shifting world in which contrasts are drastic, abrupt, and wide ranging. The movement titles are only points of embarkation.
In the Aria, Gregorian chant-like melody transforms into a blues interlude and eventually compresses into a Gamelan celebration. In the Passacaglia, a fierce orchestral edifice forms a grid for oboe variations, both lyrical and crazed. Finally, in the Fantasia, a 20s uptempo big band side arrives- through three wild oboe excursions- at a sudden tenderness and intimacy, and an anti-heroic, Chaplinesque final gesture.