On this album Leslie Odom presents works for oboe by five women composers from the twentieth century. The pieces range from vernacular-inspired character works to neoromantic pieces, as well as works exploring modern compositional ideas. Dr. Odom wishes to thank Dr. Soomee Yoon, pianist, for adding her fabulous musicianship to this album along with Bill Beckett, engineer – both of whom sweated without air conditioning to ensure the best possible recording of these delightful pieces.
Madeleine Dring (1923-1977)
Madeleine Dring’s dance pieces are lighthearted, character pieces that show off the lyrical side of the oboe. Dring (1923-1977) was born into a musical family, was a successful young violinist, singer, and pianist, and eventually married oboist Roger Lord of the London Symphony. As a skilled composer of chamber and instrumental works Dring excelled at composing in a light style, often adapting vernacular idioms.
“Danza Gaya” is cheerful and bouncy, with the piano’s syncopated rhythmic patterns driving the piece. The oboe’s melodic line takes on the character of a joyful song, beginning with a short four note phrase, but each time the idea returns it gets extended as the oboe sings upward into its higher register. The opening melody continues to return in this short three-part piece. Both of these pieces feature driving interplay between the soloist and piano. Frenetic interchange between the piano’s driving twelve- or six-eight meter and the oboe’s repeated melodic phrases give the “Italian Dance” an anticipatory feeling. The finest moments in this short piece are when Dring gives the oboe arpeggiated cadenza-like sections, to transition to a new section. These sections allow a brief moment of freedom amidst the steady drive of the dance.
Hedwige Chrétien (1859 - 1944)
Little is known about French composer Hedwige Chrétien (1859-1944) except that she was a successful student at the Paris Conservatoire and later became professor. As Judy Tsou writes, Chrétien’s compositional output includes a number of works including piano pieces, songs, a ballet, a successful ballet, two one-act comic operas, and several chamber and orchestral works.
“Scene Rustique” pushes the oboist through many key and tempos changes. This work is characterized by its sectional episodes. The first of such begins with an extended andante introduction by the piano and then oboe, featuring frequent fermati and a gentle rubato. The soloist establishes a four-note figure that gets elaborated upon until the section ends with a mini-cadenza. The main section of the piece is a bucolic melody featuring articulated scalar passages. While this main section returns as a recapitulation at the end of the piece, it is contrasted by a third episode. This episode again features rubato, ornament-like figures, but is interrupted by a presto chromatic section where the oboe and piano reach the climax of the work but quickly return to the bucolic mood established previously.
Gloria Wilson Swisher (b. 1935)
Gloria Wilson Swisher is a US based composer who studied composition at Mills College and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where she earned a Ph.D. in 1960. She studied composition under John Verrall, Darius Milhaud, Bernard Rogers, and Howard Hanson. Swisher has been an active member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). She is a Professor Emerita of Music at Shoreline Community College, and often performs as a duo pianist with Nancy Matesky.
In her Saluations Swisher pays homage to three extraordinary women from different time periods. She dedicated the work to two musicians, who were active promoters of women in music and members of SAI, Patricia Stenberg and Geraldine Hubbell. For this work she was awarded the Sigma Alpha Iota Inter-American prize for her composition Salutations for oboe and piano.
“Obeisance” – literally homage or submission to a person in authority – pays homage to Japanese writer Murasaki Shikibu (c. 973-1014) and how she had to obey the imperial power structures in which she lived. Swisher writes a stately, slow melodic line with sparse accompaniment. The movement has cadenza like qualities, allowing the oboe to control the growth of the piece.
“Fanfare,” dedicated to Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), beatified in 1614, was known as a reformer of the Carmelite order and also as a mystic experiencing ecstasies and visions of Jesus Christ. This movement features short rhythmic figures heralding with clarion sound followed by a held note, clear and without vibrato.
“Starburst” was written for Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), an accomplished mathematician and astronomer, was the first woman to discover a comet. In the final movement Swisher paints a programmatic homage with pointalistic oboe figures and cascading piano passages which are contrasted by sustained chords creating the allusion to the movement of comets and the vastness of space.
Marina Drankishnikova (ed. By Marc Fink)
POEME (WRITTEN IN 1953)
Marina Dranishnikova was born into a musical family; her father was conductor and composer Vladimir Alexandrovich Dranishnikov, who was music director at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg (1925-1932), and a friend and contemporary of Prokofiev. She studied piano and composition at the Leningrad Conservatory. Her compositions were discovered by oboist, Marc Fink. Fink found Drankishnikova’s works while doing research in Russia and he subsequently published the works in the US.
Poème for oboe and piano was written in 1953. The work is dedicated to V. M. Kurlin, solo oboist of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra. It is a challenging work, with its shifts of key, complex rhythms, and its changing patterns. The piece’s time and key signatures are pushed to their extremes. These elements are built out of Poème’s romantic style. Drankishnikova writes lush lyrical melodies, all fitting within the given key signature, that require rubato and interpretation. The lyrical sections are balanced by the fast, playful allegretto section. Drankishnikova has interwoven the technical passages of this piece with syncopation. The highlight of the piece is the coda ending, where the opening largo triplet lines return but in a reminiscing and foreboding sense. The final note, without vibrato, is a haunting conclusion. Poème is a challenging and enjoyable addition to twentieth-century oboe literature.
Mary Chandler (1911-1996)
Three Dance Studies for Oboe and Piano
British composer Mary Chandler (1911-1996) studied music privately and at the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music. She was an active oboist with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and as a free-lance performer, performing mainly with her own group, the Mercian Trio (flute, oboe and piano). Her works include concertos, suites, chamber music, piano works and both solo and choral vocal music.
Three Dance Studies for Oboe and Piano allow the soloists’ tone and phrasing to shine. While the melodies are simplistic, these three character pieces are enjoyable light works. “Habanera” features protypical Latin dance rhythms in the piano, while the oboe creates the mood with alternating legato and staccato articulations on a line with only three different notes. “Valse Sentimentale” is lyrical, sweet, and sentimental as the title implies. The subtle push and pull between the oboe and piano gives the waltz a sweet temperament, and important contrast to the two outer movements. The stylized Hungarian dance, “Magyar,” ends the piece with descending scalar passages, characterized staccato phrases, by off-beat emphasis, and contrasting dynamics.
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Ravello Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.
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