CHRISTOPHER TYLER NICKEL (b.1978): Oboe Concerto, Oboe d’amore Concerto, Bass Oboe Concerto.
Catalogue Number: 10W064
Description: Three very fine, tonal and approachable concerti which in their different ways considerably extend expectations of what an oboe concerto is capable of being. Nickel is an established film and television composer whose instrument was the oboe, so the works display complete technical knowledge of the instruments, and a far-ranging sense of dramatic narrative which goes well beyond plangent pleading and beautiful melodies. The Oboe Concerto is a big, bold, neo-romantic specimen, with tutti that seem to belong to a concerto with a more conventionally extrovert solo instrument. By the skilfully employed device of alternating declamatory statements from the oboe with the orchestra’s full-throated responses, but withdrawing to subtle, gentle textures when both sides of the argument are heard in counterpoint, the solo instrument is afforded a wide range of emotional and dramatic expression without risking being overwhelmed. The slow movement suggests a nocturnal landscape, the long eloquent solo lines holding centre stage over gently pulsating accompaniments. The energetic, propulsive finale allows the oboe to play the action hero, with busy, active, extrovert virtuosity while the orchestra powers the engines of the white-knuckle, edge-of-the-seat pursuit. A cheeky, cocky cadenza gives the soloist a chance to show off, leading to a raucous, slapstick conclusion. In the Concerto for Oboe d’amore, the composer explores the expressive and dramatic possibilities of the instrument, which go far beyond its familiar use in flowing baroque melodies. The introductory first movement makes ample use of the instrument's rich, rounded tone, in what could easily be a pastoral description of the English countryside.The larger second movement begins mysteriously, though soon stabbing string figures introduce an uneasy, tense episode in which the soloist’s melody acquires an abrasive edge. This abruptly gives way to an aggressive strutting march, the solo line terse, slightly hectoring yet loquacious, like a smooth-tongued demagogue persuading the parading troops to greater efforts. A large, demanding cadenza follows, like a troubled internal monologue, but this is dispelled by the return of the ethereal string chord from the beginning of the movement, and the piece fades out in the mysterious mood of the opening. The composer writes of his admiration for Holst's use of the bass oboe in "Saturn: the Bringer of Old Age" in The Planets, and this is reflected in the sense of profound world-weariness punctuated by brief rages against the dying of the light in the melancholy melodies and gently oscillating, almost post-minimalist accompaniment of the opening movement of his concerto. The slow movement is simple and lyrical, with an uneasy sense of rhythmic instability to the mournful melodic line. The finale is an obsessively repetitive, driven totentanz, or hexentanz, with a modal melodic line assigned to the soloist, and a final, decisive coda. Mary Lynch (oboe, oboe d’amore), Harrison Linsey (bass oboe), Northwest Sinfonia; David Sabee.