VISIT WESTCORKMUSIC.IE

LATEST ADDITION TO THE ARCHIVE

Fantasy Oboe Quartet Op.2

Benjamin Britten (b. 1913 - d. 1976)

Gareth Hulse

Gareth Hulse

Composer
Benjamin Britten (b. 1913 - d. 1976)
Composition Year
1929
Work Movements
1. Andante alla marcia
2. Allegro giusto
3. Andante
4. Molto piu lento
5. Sempre piu agitato
6. Molto piu presto
7. Andante alla Marcia
Artists
Kim Vaughan [cello], Zara Benyounes [violin], Sara Roberts [oboe], Gareth Hulse [oboe]

Programme Note Writer:
© David Winter

In this brief astonishing work, the nineteen year old Benjamin Britten packs as much variation of colour, tone and emotion as in many pieces twice as long. It was written while he studied at the Royal College of Music where there were a number prizes available for new compositions. Britten sensibly enough entered new works for several of these.

The Cobbett Prize for Chamber Music was one of the most prestigious. It was for a chamber work in one movement about 12 minutes long. It was to be in “fantasy” form a reference to the English 17th century tradition of “fancies” or “fantasies” or “fantasias”.  Cobbett, who was an ardent admirer of chamber music, hoped that his prize would stimulate English chamber music in a traditional form. To some extent it did.  Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge and Ralph Vaughn Williams as well as Benjamin Britten were all winners.

Britten’s first submission to this prize was a Fantasy String Quintet which won in 1932. His second was the Fantasy Oboe Quartet Opus 2 which did not win the following year. The Oboe Quartet was dedicated to Leon Goossens and, despite not winning the Cobbett prize, was performed on BBC radio, when it was well received and later accepted by the prestigious International Society of Contemporary Music for its festival in Florence in 1934. Through this work Britten began to establish an international reputation.

In this work Britten turns to the English pastoral tradition, however this does not mean he ignores structural considerations. The quartet begins with a march, followed by a faster passage. The core of the work is the central slow section which becomes agitated at times. The work ends in reverse order to the beginning with a fast section followed by the opening march.

The role of the oboe varies throughout. For several passages it is silent, sometimes it carries the tune while the string instruments provide accompaniment often using pizzicato  strings, sometimes all four instruments play together as in a genuine chamber work. The opening bar is itself silent (don’t miss it). Out of the silence comes the cello very quietly playing the first notes of a lopsided, syncopated, playfully sinister march. Eventually the oboe enters very quietly playing the main pastoral theme. This is repeated and the music rises to a climax where the oboe plays a rapid upward scale over shimmering strings.

There follows an allegro where, after the delayed entry of the oboe, all four instruments make equal contributions. This serves as a second subject and, as in traditional sonata form, moves into a development section where the main theme is developed by all four instruments. After reaching another climax there is a linking passage into the slow section. This is beautifully calm.  At first the three string instruments play without the oboe. The music becomes more animated until the oboe enters and the calm returns. In the Finale, the second subject material is briefly repeated before the strings take up the opening disjointed march while the oboe repeats the main theme. The music becomes quieter and until only the cello is left playing the opening notes of the quartet in (nearly) reverse order. Whether this remarkable work ends, as it began, with a complete bar of silence is left entirely to the audience.  

FULL DETAILS SEARCH FOR MORE

Fantasy Oboe Quartet Op.2

Composer: Benjamin Britten (b. 1913 - d. 1976)
Performance date: Wednesday 1st July 2015
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

Share on Twitter | Share on Facebook
http://archive.westcorkmusic.ie/details/view/cmf/504

Composer Benjamin Britten (b. 1913 - d. 1976)
Work Title Fantasy Oboe Quartet Op.2
Composition Year 1929
Work Movements 1. Andante alla marcia
2. Allegro giusto
3. Andante
4. Molto piu lento
5. Sempre piu agitato
6. Molto piu presto
7. Andante alla Marcia
Artist(s) Kim Vaughan [cello], Zara Benyounes [violin], Sara Roberts [oboe], Gareth Hulse [oboe]
Performance Date Wednesday 1st July 2015
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Crespo Series
Duration 00:14:15
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Small Mixed Ensemble
Instrumentation ob, vn, va,vc
Programme Note Writer © David Winter

In this brief astonishing work, the nineteen year old Benjamin Britten packs as much variation of colour, tone and emotion as in many pieces twice as long. It was written while he studied at the Royal College of Music where there were a number prizes available for new compositions. Britten sensibly enough entered new works for several of these.

The Cobbett Prize for Chamber Music was one of the most prestigious. It was for a chamber work in one movement about 12 minutes long. It was to be in “fantasy” form a reference to the English 17th century tradition of “fancies” or “fantasies” or “fantasias”.  Cobbett, who was an ardent admirer of chamber music, hoped that his prize would stimulate English chamber music in a traditional form. To some extent it did.  Arnold Bax, Frank Bridge and Ralph Vaughn Williams as well as Benjamin Britten were all winners.

Britten’s first submission to this prize was a Fantasy String Quintet which won in 1932. His second was the Fantasy Oboe Quartet Opus 2 which did not win the following year. The Oboe Quartet was dedicated to Leon Goossens and, despite not winning the Cobbett prize, was performed on BBC radio, when it was well received and later accepted by the prestigious International Society of Contemporary Music for its festival in Florence in 1934. Through this work Britten began to establish an international reputation.

In this work Britten turns to the English pastoral tradition, however this does not mean he ignores structural considerations. The quartet begins with a march, followed by a faster passage. The core of the work is the central slow section which becomes agitated at times. The work ends in reverse order to the beginning with a fast section followed by the opening march.

The role of the oboe varies throughout. For several passages it is silent, sometimes it carries the tune while the string instruments provide accompaniment often using pizzicato  strings, sometimes all four instruments play together as in a genuine chamber work. The opening bar is itself silent (don’t miss it). Out of the silence comes the cello very quietly playing the first notes of a lopsided, syncopated, playfully sinister march. Eventually the oboe enters very quietly playing the main pastoral theme. This is repeated and the music rises to a climax where the oboe plays a rapid upward scale over shimmering strings.

There follows an allegro where, after the delayed entry of the oboe, all four instruments make equal contributions. This serves as a second subject and, as in traditional sonata form, moves into a development section where the main theme is developed by all four instruments. After reaching another climax there is a linking passage into the slow section. This is beautifully calm.  At first the three string instruments play without the oboe. The music becomes more animated until the oboe enters and the calm returns. In the Finale, the second subject material is briefly repeated before the strings take up the opening disjointed march while the oboe repeats the main theme. The music becomes quieter and until only the cello is left playing the opening notes of the quartet in (nearly) reverse order. Whether this remarkable work ends, as it began, with a complete bar of silence is left entirely to the audience.