CHRISTOPHER ROUSE (born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland)
Oboe Concerto (2004) (New York Premiere)
Christopher Rouse has had an ongoing relationship with the New York Philharmonic for a number of years; in February 2009, the orchestra gave the world premiere of Odna Zhizn (A Life). This season, our principal oboist Liang Wang solos in the New York premiere of Rouse’s Oboe Concerto, commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra. The number of Rouse’s concertos is impressive—more than ten since 1985: violin, cello, flute, percussion, guitar, and clarinet, plus the Pulitzer Prize-winning Trombone Concerto and Seeing, for pianist Emanuel Ax (both commissioned by the New York Philharmonic). In Rouse’s program notes about the present work he comments, “I have noticed that [my concerti] seem to fall into one of two categories: ‘somber’ (e.g., trombone, violoncello) and ‘genial’ (guitar, clarinet). My oboe concerto…is of the latter variety. (I used to employ the term ‘recreational’ to refer to works of this type until I realized that it would be wrong to create the impression that composing them was a form of recreation. It isn’t; it’s hard work!)” Rouse also explains the nature of the musical material and its demands on the soloist: “There is no overt program to this piece. It aims, of course, to explore the capabilities of the oboe, of which the first in everyone’s mind is its capacity to play long, lyrical lines.” But he did not want “to deny the instrument’s more virtuosic attributes, and so there are plenty of moments when the soloist is asked to play music requiring substantial agility”; as a result, the concerto represents a kind of interplay between those lyrical and virtuosic qualities. A five-note chord in the strings at the beginning is the source for much of the melodic and harmonic material that metamorphoses, by turns, into dreamy, meditative, sensuous, lyrical, and colorful music.