for oboe and string quartet (2001)
- Premiere: 9 August 2001 / International Double Reed Society Conference, Rando-Grillot Recital Hall, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia / Stephen Caplan, oboe, et. al.
- Instrumentation: oboe and string quartet
- Duration: 23'
- Dedication: Commissioned by the Wisconsin Philharmonic for Linda Edelstein
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I. Elegy (Mesto)
II. Cradle Song (Intimamente)
III. Finale (Precipitato)
The Oboe Quintet was made possible by Stephen Caplan, professor of oboe at UNLV, who asked me to craft a version of my Concerto for Oboe and Strings for him to introduce at the 2001 International Double Reed Conference in Morgantown, WV.
The paper was yellow and brittle, but the memories and emotions summoned up by the article, when I fished it out of my files and re-read it for the first time in twenty years, were as fresh and as exhilarating as they were the first morning I read it: 'Young Composer Shows Promise' announced the title of Jay Joslyn's Milwaukee Sentinel 5 August 1978 review of the premiere of my first orchestra piece, which the Park Promenade Youth Orchestra had just performed at the Humboldt Park Chalet. The player who 'gave the A' that day was Linda Edelstein, principal oboist of the orchestra. That summer I promised her that someday I would write her a concerto. She and another good friend, conductor Alexander Platt, completed the circle by premiering together with the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra a composition twenty years in the making.
The work has three movements. The first, Elegy, is a set of nine variations on a pair of interlocking six note pitch groups heard at the outset in the solo strings. This movement memorializes loved ones now dead. The second movement, Cradle Song, celebrates the future. It begins with an oboe solo that represents a mother singing to her infant. The strings join the soloist for a tender, straightforward song. The Finale is a rondo about the not unpleasant hurly-burly of life in New York. The first idea is a chunky groove in seven; the second is a carefree, Broadway-style 'walking tune.' After a cadenza for the oboe which draws together the motivic strings off the three movements, the final variation of the first movement returns, followed by a quick coda.
The concerto was composed over the course of three months. The first movement was written at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts during July and August of 2000; the second was written in Pittsburgh at the end of August. The final movement was written in New York City and completed on 20 September. It was commissioned by the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra and premiered by Linda Donahue, oboist, with the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Music Director Alexander Platt, on 7 November 2000 at Shattuck Auditorium, Waukesha, Wisconsin.
— Daron Hagen, 2000
The forces required are modest and, at 18 minutes, the piece does not wear out its welcome. The orchestra part has some rhythmic complications, but it can make a semiprofessional orchestra sound resonant. The piece is tuneful and accessible, but formally smart and harmonically spicy. The solo part is virtuosic but within reach of most professionals. Donahue sounded beautiful in it; oboists will want to play this concerto.
The first movement, built on germinal, interlocking figures in flowing 6/8 time, is especially engaging. They mutate continuously across nine developmental variations, the boundaries of which are not always apparent.
Hagen builds his harmony from aggregates of the melodic figure, which yields a lot of comforting triads and enough tense, closely voiced chords to give the music an edge. Hagen relieves that pressure with open, Coplandesque consonances that blow in like cool, fresh breezes.
A brief solo meditation for oboe links the first movement to the second, a sweetly beautiful cradle song that crept out of the room before it could be fully absorbed. Even a simple repetition would have been welcome.
Perhaps Hagen was saving it for the finale, where a version of the cradle song recurs, where, amid a percolating 7/8 rondo.
— Tom Strini, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/8/00
(Banner photo: Stephen Caplan)