Program note for Oboe Quartet
The Oboe Quartet was composed in 2002 on commission from the Winsor Music Consortium under the auspices of the oboist Peggy Pearson. La Fenice gave the premiere in 2003 in Schenectady, New York. The piece is in one movement of approximately 13 minutes in duration.
I was attracted to the ensemble of oboe, violin, viola, and cello because in my early years I was a moderately accomplished oboist, and I wished to compose an homage to this beautiful instrument that once gave me so much pleasure and frustration. Rather than write a quasi-chamber oboe concerto, I chose to integrate the oboe with the strings, sometimes pairing it with the violin, other times allowing it to emerge as the main melodic instrument. The form of the Oboe Quartet employs my technique of expanding variations, in which ideas first appear in embryonic form and then gradually differentiate and develop into highly elaborate structures. Here my use of the technique is rather free, so as to create a texture that is controlled yet improvisatory in character. The music is quick and playful with occasional dark undertones.