On October 21, HPO Principal Oboe Aleh Remezau takes us to the English countryside with the serene folk-inspired melodies of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Concerto for Oboe and Strings! Watch the video below to explore this work with Aleh and hear him practice a few of his solo passages.

Learn more about this work with a sneak peek at our program notes by Craig Doolin below!

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Concerto in A minor for Oboe and Strings 

Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the first major composers to earn advanced college degrees in music. Although he received a doctorate in music from Cambridge in 1901, he was most satisfied learning from the uneducated. He discovered a deep truth in the songs of British commoners, setting out in 1905 to collect folk songs in the English countryside. These poignant and tuneful discoveries would form the basis for many of his compositions. An English nationalist in many ways, Vaughan Williams joined the army during WWI even though he was 42 years old. 

His uniquely personal musical style often draws upon the elements of folksong. Rejecting classical symphonic forms, he reinvented musical structures to fit his needs, all the while sounding quite traditional. Clearly defined melodies are central to Vaughan Williams’s music, often using the pentatonic scale found in folk music the world over. His harmonies, although suffused with considerable dissonances, rarely project a grating quality. Central to his music is the use of church modes, favoured by many young composers at the time. 

Like many of his other works, Vaughan Williams’s Oboe Concerto uses discarded portions of an earlier work – this time the Scherzo from his Fifth Symphony. He began this work in 1943 just after completing that symphony. He composed this concerto for oboist Léon Goossens, the brother of Eugene (violinist and composer) and Sidonie (harpist and founding member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who lived for 103 years).

The work was scheduled to premiere in 1944 at Queen’s Hall in London, but the concert was canceled as the hall was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. Not to be kept down by acts of war, Vaughan Williams scheduled another date, this time in Royal Albert Hall at a Proms Concert. History repeated itself and bombing again canceled the premiere. The work finally had its first performance in Liverpool on September 30, 1944. Its Proms premiere did not occur until 1990.

©2023 Orpheus Music Prose & Craig Doolin 

Don’t miss HPO Principal Oboist Aleh Remezau as our soloist for this stunning concerto!

October 21, 2023 at 7:30pm

James Kahane, Conductor
Aleh Remezau, Oboe

  • Britten, Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge*
  • Vaughan Williams, Oboe Concerto
  • Kathryn Knowles (23-24 Composer Fellow), A Strange and Preposterous Affair**
  • Elgar, Enigma Variations

*Players Choice
**World premiere

Published on October 12, 2023