Oboe Quartet


For oboe, violin, viola, cello.


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Commissioned and Premiered by the Christy/Marcy Quartet
in November 2003

Duration: 13′

I had been in discussion with Judy (Christy) about writing an oboe sonata for her, but as the idea for a Christy Oboe Quartet CD developed, we decided that I would compose a quartet instead.

The piece is in theme and variations form with a finale which recalls the main theme and was added to provide a symmetrical framework to the piece and to allow the players more opportunity to display their virtuosity. The theme is actually a musical “coded message” (and I know I’m not the first composer to do this!) based entirely on the family’s surname: Christy. I arrived at the musical representation of the name as follows:
C H RI S TY becomes: C B Ré Es Ti becomes: C, B, D, Eb (D#), B

The piece admittedly sounds a little like Shostakovich at the beginning, the reason being that the first four notes used are the same (though in different order) as Shostakovich’s own frequently employed musical monogram (D, Eb, C, B). The musicians enter with the theme in the order of their appearance in the family: violin (Jay), viola (Jan), oboe (Judy), cello (John, who married in).

Because the theme does not readily lend itself to tonality, the piece is a bit of a departure for me as a composer, and I wanted to keep the theme very present and easy to decipher throughout the nine variations in order to give the listener a home base to refer to amid the relative lack of tonal structure.

The Finale appears here in its revised form, which is a slightly lengthened version to give myself the opportunity to refer back to the main theme, and therefore give the piece a more complete framework.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Christy family for believing in new music, and for giving me the chance to create something that I otherwise would not have. I am forever grateful to them.

Jim Stephenson

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