Händel – 3 concerti per oboe


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Five early Händel works centred around the oboe. The Dutch word for oboe is hobo, which gives rise to a nice transatlantic misunderstanding. After some searching my mind was put at ease: Händel was not mistreating vagrants.

The oboe is a wooden wind instrument, that gets its distinctive sound from a double reed. The player blows air between two thin layers of natural reed. The vibration the escaping air causes is then amplified and tuned by the rest of the instrument, like a sound chamber.

What always strikes me about oboe players is that they constantly have to dabble in reed cutting. That have to make this themselves, since it has to fit their style and manner of playing. And they don’t last long, so making them becomes a lifelong exercise.

Another curious thing about the oboe is that in most orchestras it’s A is used to tune the others. The reason is that the pitch is consistent enough to rely on, and the sound is penetrating enough to reach the whole orchestra, even through the sound of tuning instruments.

The name of the instrument comes from the French Haut bois (high wood?). It is used most in classical and some jazz, but also in film scores. Notable examples include the Love Theme from The Godfather or Gabriels Oboe theme from The Mission.

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