Oboe Quartet is essentially an abstract piece. This is somewhat unusual in my out-put with many pieces taking extra-musical starting points. The stimulus for the piece sprang from my love of the oboe as well as an exploration of its relationship with the three string instruments. I studied the oboe alongside composition at the Royal College of Music in London, and although I rarely play anymore, I have retained a strong bond with the instrument.
The piece is cast in one continuous movement although it falls into a number of shorter sections. The oboe is the protagonist throughout with the string trio set against it in a unit, sometimes opposing, sometimes shadowing, commenting or expanding upon on the oboe’s line. The character of music moves between plaintive, virtuosic and fantastical to reflective and somewhat melancholy.
In the opening section, a gradually unfolding melody in the oboe is punctuated by gentle rocking figures in the trio. These two ideas interlock and overlap becoming more agitated and compressed before all instruments come together in a fantastical section. This leads to a faster energetic section with all instruments combining to produce an intense unison passage ending on repeated B flats on the oboe, the instrument’s lowest note. This in turn leads to an extended oboe cadenza, which is interrupted by faster, agitato figures in the string trio. These interruptions become gradually quieter and less forceful taking us into a very slow, calm final section featuring the high register of the oboe and delicate glissandi in the string writing.
© Helen Grime