Opus number: 32

Title: Concerto for Oboe and Five Instruments

Instrumentation: oboe, piano; strings: 1-1-1-1

Date written: 1988, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and American Academy in Rome

Length: sixteen minutes

Commissioner and dedicatee: Speculum Musicae

Premiere performance: Speculum Musicae, Steven Taylor, oboe, Benjamin Hudson, violin, Lois Martin, viola, Eric Bartlett, cello, Marji Danilow, doublebass, Aleck Karis, piano, April 24, 1989

Important subsequent performances: Öesterreichesches Ensemble für Neue Musik, April 1994, Salzburg, Austria

Program notes:

Drammatico e maestoso

Adagio e grazioso

Rondo pop

The Concerto for Oboe and Five Instruments was commissioned by Speculum Musicae. It was written at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and finished at the American Academy in Rome in July 1988.

The work is in three movement of a neo-Classic caste–fast-slow-fast. Unlike the typical concerto, the solo instrument here plays the role of mediator: It is the strings that are concerted against the piano. In addition a common developmental characteristic occurs in each of the movements: thematic “role reversal” of the strings and the piano. For instance, the opening octaves in the strings return as octaves in the piano in the recapitulation of the first movement.

The first movement is marked “Drammatico e maestoso,” the second “Adagio e grazioso,” and the third “Rondo pop.” The entire work, and especially the second movement, contains Ivesian juxtapositions of different music. These are unified by constant reference to one hexachord used as a mode centering around the “key” of d minor. The “key,” or mode, contains many obvious inflections of the blues and much American popular music. The effect of collage is also controlled by large polyrhythmic structures that denote phrase and section articulations. The last movement in particular has a very rock-influenced rhythm.

Reviews: “[Bell’s] postmodernly structured compositional style, in which diverse elements link with one another, orient it to Arnold Schoenberg and Charles Ives, as well as to Pop, Rock, and Neoclassicism.” –Ulla Kalchmair, Salzburger Volkzeitung(April 30, 1994)

Bibliography: Bell, Larry. “Some Remarks on the New Tonality,” Contemporary Music Review, vol. 6 part 2, 1992, pp. 42–47.