Paul Patterson

Paul Patterson is the latest composer to featured in the Journal and has written extensively for the oboe in so many combinations. As well as the compositions mentioned below, it is worth noting his Westerly Winds and Wind Quintet (Opus 2) are among his extensive catalogue that feature the oboe.


Instrumentation: Oboe and Piano

Duration: 14′

Premiere: Commissioned by Finzi Trust for George Caird and Clifford Benson

In 1984 the Finzi Trust held the second of its triennial Summer Festivals of English Music. With funds provided by the Southern Arts Association, Paul Patterson was commissioned to write a work for oboe and piano to be performed at Christ Church, Oxford, in a concert given by George Caird and Clifford Benson. The work that he wrote — DUOLOGUE — was an immediate success and has since been widely performed.

Paul Patterson’s style is highly approachable and in DUOLOGUE he has produced a work which combines drama with both lyricism and humour. It is a virtuoso showpiece for both instruments, extending over some 13 minutes and consists of three movements, the first and last of which are divided into two sections. The first movement, which also provides the material for the end of the work, is a spiky, toccata-like movement with irregular rythms in which both instruments go at it ‘hammer and tongs’ for the first 60 bars before a more gentle theme is introduced — but only briefly. The end of the first movement, or the Prelude to the ADAGIO second movement (whichever way you think of it), is marked RECITATIVE, where the two instruments take it in turns to utter dramatic statements ending with the oboe plaintively murmuring, using the highly effective device called ‘bisbigliando.

The Adagio is an eloquent slow movement in which the oboe is given the opportunity to demonstrate its lyrical power. This is followed by a Scherzando which begins with the opening notes from the beginning of the work. It is a fragmented movement where the silences are as important as the sounds and where almost pointillist precision is balanced by wistful, drooping phrases on the oboe reminiscent of some comedy music-hall act. Finally we return to the music of the opening, and without a let-up the relentless rhythm drives on to end.

© Paul Patterson

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Phoenix Concerto / Phoenix Sonata

Instrumentation: Oboe and Orchestra / Oboe and Piano

Duration: 15′

I. Allegro vivace
II. Tranquillo
III. Allegro molto

The “Phoenix Concerto” is the latest in a string of concertos which has occupied Patterson in the last decade; it was commissioned by David Bowerman for Emily Pailthorpe, who premiered it with the Queen’s Park Sinfonia conducted by Richard Laing at the Adrain Bolt Hall, Birmingham (as part of the International Double reed Society Conference 2009.

Emily Pailthorpe, who premiered it at the IDRS Birmingham festival in July 2009.

Inspiration to this new concerto is Phoenix, the bird of fire. This mythically beautiful and exotic creature has fuelled the legends of the Orient; soaring the skies with power and grace. The fire, passion and power of the Phoenix is very present in the outer movements of this piece, with the last movement filled with mesmerising dance rhythms. The oboe’s unparalleled ability to recreate the feel of exotic birdsong is showcased in the opening cadenza and central slow movement.

The 24-minute work’s 3 movements run without a break and make up the fast-slow-fast framework in which the music evolves. The brief, accompanied cadenza which opens the proceedings establishes the material for the opening movement, which soon sets off on its urgent trajectory. An active, forceful dialogue between soloist and orchestra propels the argument, eventually building up to another cadenza which effectively dissipates the tensions which have accumulated up to this point. As the temperature lowers, the slow second movement takes over, with the oboe’s long, melismatic ariosi alternating with passages of a more recitative-like stasis. Once the movement has run its course, the strings break rebelliously into the proceedings and coerces the oboe into the fast, breezy finale. Spirits stay high throughout, and a final whirlwind cadenza punctually and unceremoniously sets the seal on the work.

The Phoenix Sonata is a condensed version for oboe and piano of Patterson’s Phoenix Concerto, which was commissioned by David Bowerman for Emily Pailthorpe. The world premiere was given by Emily Pailthorpe at the 2009 International Double Reed Society Conference in Birmingham.

© Paul Patterson


Instrumentation: Solo Oboe

Duration: 7′

Premiere: Mary Cotton at Purcell Room London

Canonic Lullaby

Instrumentation: Oboe and Harp

Duration: 7′

Premiere: Dedicated to Andrea Wehrenfennig

The Canonic Lullaby was first performed in Germany in 2016 with Andreas Wehrenfennig (Harp) and Bernhard Forster (Oboe).
As the title suggests it is a calm lyrical piece and has the feel of Italian barcarolle with flowing melodies and gently rocking rhythms that float between the oboe and harp.
It starts with a graceful statement of the theme in cannon on the harp; it is then taken by the oboe in its upper register and gently falls away to its low register. A series of calm conversation between the two performers ensues leading to a number of gentle climaxes where the oboe embellishes the melody with fast moving scales and passionate gestures. Following the final climax the atmosphere gradually becomes calmer and the falling melodic line descends lower recalling the opening passage, and eventually moves to the lower register of the harp whilst the oboe hovers on reflective high harmonics.

© Paul Patterson

About Paul Patterson

Paul Patterson is one of the most versatile, successful and internationally-respected British composers of his generation. All of the major UK orchestras, and in numerous countries abroad, have performed his works, as have eminent ensembles and international soloists, and he has a substantial discography. He has been the featured composer at many festivals both in the UK and abroad, and has also been BBC Composer of the Week. Music-lovers worldwide enjoy his music as it never alienates – rather, creates an enriching experience that draws both audiences and performers in.

His substantial oeuvre, which includes several prestigious commissions, is stylistically varied; he is known for his sympathetic and often humorous writing for instruments, making a popular and successful name for himself in the choral, brass, organ, orchestral, concerti and children’s music. His composition style of challenging but idiomatic writing has resulted in many of his solo works have been chosen as set pieces for international competitions in Europe, Australia, Israel, Thailand and the USA.

Patterson’s increasing international reputation as one of the foremost contemporary composers for the harp began with the popularity of Spiders . More works are being commissioned currently, and he has been invited to be the featured composer at the International Harp Congress in Hong Kong in 2017, his 70th birthday year.

Over the course of his career, Patterson has made significant contributions to many of the country’s leading musical institutions. At the Royal Academy of Music he initiated a pioneering series of annual Composer Festivals – an idea swiftly emulated elsewhere. He is a fellow of many of the UK’s leading music colleges and has received several awards in recognition of his services to music.