The Oboe d’amore: Mission Impossible lV

The concluding guest blog by Jennifer Paull follows here. Do take a moment to find out more about Jennifer and the works she has commissioned and premiered which are linked at the end of this article.

The Australian composer and former oboist, Ian K. Harris joined the fold and he wrote a total of sixteen pieces! He also copied the entire catalogue so that everything could be put online, a monumental and dedicated task he undertook with great skill. The cost of paper scores and their distribution in the digital age was prohibitive in such a restricted speciality and I realised the future clearly lay in this exciting new direction.

Several American and British composers joined up and the portfolio continued to expand. Yet, there was something missing. I wanted to bring some beautiful Baroque music I had researched to life for oboe d’amore, but also cor anglais. I included a full continuo and keyboard realisation with figured bass for anyone who wished to improvise. I worked on a series I entitled Les Tableaux Galants and began another, The Sonata Series. The oboe d’amore, but also the cor anglais can play these works with ease as can the oboe and bassoon.

Frequently, when compiling programme notes, I had discovered there was little or no information readily available about a contemporary composer’s life or works. A great deal of the programme note research and composer biographies I had written during and subsequent to my time at Novello’s had been done before the digital world and Google. I knew how complicated it could be to find and piece together sufficient interesting and informative material. Frequently, there just wasn’t anything available about a certain work and there still isn’t, even today. I wanted Amoris to be a scholarly edition, every score to contain its own programme note and composer biography to help the performer.

In 2001, I began writing articles and essays on music for my friend Basil Ramsey, who by this time had left Novello and was publishing the daily online classical music magazine, ‘Music and Vision’, which, since Basil’s death, has become ‘Classical Music Daily’. Like Bruno Maderna, my dear friend Cathy Berberian also died far too young, in 1983. Both of them had only been in their 50s. I compiled many stories as well as a section dedicated exclusively to her into a book I entitled, Cathy Berberian and Music’s Muses. Not long after doing this, I decided it was time for me to retire. I first ensured that all my Amoris catalogue was available online at the WIMA Music Archive and IMSLP, which then took over the files. I wanted it to be easily accessible to everyone. 

My work had been for my instrument in making new repertoire: that was what it had all been about. I had envisaged this on two fronts: the solo repertoire, but also the orchestral. Working with so many composers over the years had enabled me to plead my instrument’s case time and time again. The first composer to include oboe d’amore in his orchestration at my behest had been John McCabe, who had written a very important oboe d’amore obbligato into his second Violin Concerto. 

By this time, over 50 years since I first started, many people owned their own oboes d’amore as they had become more and more frequent in the orchestral repertoire. The trickle of works by composers such as Debussy and Ravel, who had possessed enough imagination to score for one, was by now a stream, if not exactly a flood. 

I had a feeling of mission accomplished, although there is still a great deal to do before the oboe d’amore is accepted as a voice in its own right as the viola has now become. After all, it is no longer considered as simply an appendage of the violin. By this time, I felt that there was a healthy selection of music available offering alternative options. Nobody, ever again, would need to confront a total lack of repertoire as I once had done. 

This mission has been a mosaic of pieces in which all the aspects of music I touched to form it were a part of its fabric. From artist management to publishing, impresario to promotion manager, orchestral player to chamber musician, soloist to writer, each aspect networked connections that created it. What stuck it together was glue – the glue ‘of love’, which is d’amore in Italian, Amoris in Latin – and that is how it all began.

© Jennifer I. Paull

Vouvry, April 2020

Amoris International at the WIMA Music Archive

Werner Icking Music Archive (WIMA)

Cathy Berberian and Music’s Muses