Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra
(Oboe and String Quintet or String Orchestra)
Premiere: Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
Rudolph Vrbsky, soloist with members of the National Symphony Orchestra, 1997
My Concerto for Oboe and Strings was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra for their “Prelude” concert series. It was premiered in January 1997 by oboist Rudolph Vrbski and other members of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC.
Scored for solo oboe and either single strings or small orchestra, my concerto recalls both the spirit and contrapuntal textures of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, particularly the sixth. The first movement opens with a busy canon between the violins. The chords implied by this canon provide the harmonic material of the entire concerto. The oboe is then added by sustaining certain notes the violins play and simply doubling others. Many of the melodies in the piece are derived in this way, by extracting notes from a busy, grid-like texture.
The second movement places the oboe high atop a bed of quietly undulating strings. Eventually the oboe’s melody is reinforced by the first violin, which all the while maintains the accompanimental motion of the opening.
The third movement returns to the bustling activity of the first, this time in a minor. The motion of this final movement is virtually relentless, and several ideas from the first two movements are recalled as the music rushes by.
The attentive listener will notice the pervasive sound of augmented harmonies. These are used to create a sense of stasis, or to provide a break in the forward motion of the music. This harmonic color is reflected by the key scheme of the entire piece which comprises the notes of an augmented chord:
Movement I: F major
Movement II: D-flat major
Movement III: a minor