Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Friday, November 9

Corigliano tunes up

Synopsis

If you’ve ever attended a live symphony orchestra concert, you’re probably familiar with the routine: before anyone starts playing, before the conductor even steps on stage, the principal oboist sounds an “A” – and the other musicians tune their instruments to that pitch.

On today’s date in 1975, a few people in the audience at Carnegie Hall might have been surprised to hear this familiar ritual segue directly into the opening of John Corigliano’s new Oboe Concerto, which was receiving its premiere performance by oboist Burt Lucarelli and the American Symphony orchestra.

The first movement of Corigliano’s Concerto is entitled “Tuning Game,” followed by a “Song-Scherzo,” “Aria” and a final “Dance.” This form, says Corigliano, arose “from the different aspects of the oboe, each movement based on a different quality of the instrument. The drama and coloratura qualities of the oboe are emphasized in the ‘Aria’ movement, for example, but the whole Concerto is highly theatrical, virtuoso music for both soloist and orchestra.”

Theatrical is right! The final dance movement was inspired by the sound of the “rheita” or Morrocan oboe. According to Corigliano: “I was fascinated by the rheita’s sound, heady and forceful, lacking both pitch and color controls of the Western oboe, but having an infectiously exciting quality. I first heard the instrument in Marrakech in 1966, serenading a cobra.”

Hmmm. Given the way some orchestral players feel about conductors, maybe that’s not such a stretch of the imagination for the featured oboist!

Music Played in Today's Program

John Corigliano (b. 1938) Oboe Concerto Humbert Lucarelli, oboe; American Symphony; Kazuyoshi Akiyama, cond. RCA/BMG 60395

Additional Information

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