The oboe is normally made of grenadilla, a very dense wood, and its keys are made of metal. Like the English horn and bassoon, one produces a sound with an ancient and very peculiar invention: the double reed! The slightly nasal yet alluring sound of the oboe originates from two thin pieces of bamboo vibrating against one another when the oboist blows through the reed. As the oboe is the only instrument which cannot easily adjust its pitch once the reed has been made, it is the oboe which tunes the orchestra. Before any rehearsal or concert, the oboist will play a long note (an A) to which all the other musicians in the orchestra tune their instruments.
Did you know?
Oboists make their own reeds by hand! In fact, it is a part of the daily life of an oboist to tie, clip, and scrape their reed in order to be able to play their instrument.
The first excerpt comes from the ballet Swan Lake, by the Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. What you are hearing is one of the most famous oboe solos! In the second excerpt we are listening to the “Pastoral” Symphony, by Beethoven, in which the oboe seemingly frolics around whilst accompanied the violins and bassoon. Do you hear the clarinet’s subtle response near the end of the excerpt?
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphonie No. 6 “Pastoral”: III. Allegro. Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute (Merry Gathering of Country Folk)
Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils
Discover the favourite symphonic work of Lise Beauchamp, Principal oboe with the Orchestre Métropolitain.