Oboe Concerto (Strauss)
The Concerto in D major for Oboe and Small Orchestra, AV 144, TrV 292, was written by Richard Strauss in 1945. It was one of the last works he composed near the end of his life, during what is often described by biographers, journalists and music critics as his "Indian summer."
Instrumentation and movements
The concerto consists of three interconnected movements and lasts around 25 minutes:
- Allegro moderato
- Vivace - Allegro
Inception and premiere
American oboist John de Lancie was in the U.S. Army unit which secured the area round the Bavarian town of Garmisch where Strauss's was living in April 1945, following WWII. As principal oboist of the Pittsburgh Orchestra in civilian life, he knew Strauss's orchestral writing for oboe thoroughly, visited the composer in his home, and in the course of a long conversation asked him if he had ever considered writing an oboe concerto. Strauss answered simply "No," and the topic was dropped. However, in the months to follow, the idea grew on him and the work was premiered on February 26, 1946 in Zürich, featuring Marcel Saillet as soloist with the Tonhalle Orchester conducted by Volkmar Andreae.
John de Lancie had been astonished to see that Strauss was indeed publishing an oboe concerto. Strauss saw to it that the rights to the U.S. premiere were assigned to de Lancie, who after the war had switched to the Philadelphia Orchestra and was only a junior member there. Protocol made de Lancie's performing the premiere impossible since the Philadelphia Orchestra's principal oboist had priority. De Lancie instead gave the rights to the U.S. premiere to a young oboist friend at the CBS Symphony Orchestra in New York, Mitch Miller, who later became famous as a music producer and host of a sing-along TV show.
John de Lancie later became the principal oboist for the Philadelphia Orchestra for 30 years but it was only after his retirement that he finally performed and recorded the concerto.
- Roos, James (Winter 1991). "Oboist Finally Records the Concerto He Inspired". The Double Reed 14 (3).