Bach was a versatile composer. He reworked many of his instrumental concerti for harpsichord, and vice-versa (the two violin concerti, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 and this concerto for oboe and violin are notable examples).
After considerable research, this three-movement work was reconstructed from Bach’s concerto for two harpsichords in C minor, the original violin-oboe version having been lost.
The first movement opens with an eighth-note theme with stated by the orchestra and answered by the violin and oboe. While the solo lines are prominent, they are interwoven with the orchestra, including delicate contrapuntal textures. The second movement is a lovely duet, with spun-out solo melodies juxtaposed against a muted, mostly plucked orchestral accompaniment. The vigorous last movement features sharp dynamic contrasts and florid solo passages before its resounding end.
Strauss composed his elegant oboe concerto in exile in Switzerland shortly after the end of World War II.
A far cry from Strauss’ lush late romantic tone poems, the concerto harks back to the classicism of Mozart. Its themes are harmonically lucid and charming. The work is sparely scored for soloist and chamber orchestra (strings, woodwinds and horns).
The first movement is based on a recurring four-note motif in the strings, followed immediately by the soaring oboe melody and extensive thematic and harmonic development. The second movement, which follows without a break, includes an extended oboe cadenza accompanied in part by the orchestra. The sprightly third movement starts off with intertwined melodies involving the solo oboe, flute and clarinet. After a short cadenza, the main theme is transformed into a sweeping 6/8 closing Allegro.
Many of the motifs played by soloist and orchestra involve leaps and jumps reminiscent of other famous Strauss tone poems.
The Russian contemporary of Honegger, Sergei Prokofiev grew up in the atmosphere of late Russian Romanticism that he abandoned as soon as his compositional style gained strength and individuality. His works already had very early on a motor, sometimes anti-emotional character, a tendency that Prokofiev, in the 1930s, would call “New Simplicity”—a rather theatrical, staged return to classic forms and means of expression different from Romanticized music.
After the Soviet revolution, Prokofiev in 1918 was granted an exit visa from the new Soviet government and went to Paris, where his 1st Violin Concerto received its premier. Although it had been difficult to find a soloist for the first concerto—many violinists “flatly refused to learn that music”—the 2nd Violin Concerto was commissioned by a group of admirers of the French violinist Robert Soëtans.
Written in 1935, shortly before his final return to his home country Russia (which he visited only briefly, having worked abroad since 1918), Prokofiev wrote: “The variety of places in which the concerto was written is a reflection of the nomadic concert-tour existence I led at that time: the principal theme of the first movement in Paris, the first theme of the second movement in Voronezh, the instrumentation was completed in Baku and the first performance was given in Madrid.”
Arthur Honegger’s lovely, neoclassical Concerto da Camera dates from 1948 and is scored for the unusual combination of flute, English horn (a larger version of the oboe), and strings. The first movement is like a gracious dialogue, the second a gravely beautiful song with wistful counterpoint and rich, dissonant harmonies. The finale is a rather lively dance, full of gentle good humor.