British oboist Léon Goossens (1897-1988) is credited with reestablishing the oboe as a solo instrument and elevating its status after it fell out of favor in the nineteenth century. Romantic composers preferred the facility and tone of the flute and clarinet to the unwieldy oboe, leading to a scarcity of quality literature of solo literature beginning in the mid eighteenth century. Goossens, admired for his technique, tone, and expressive use of vibrato, led a resurgence of the oboe’s popularity.
Despite a traumatic car accident in the height of his career that damaged his teeth and embouchure, Goossens recovered his ability to perform and regained his international solo performance career. He actively sought out new compositions and recorded most of the major repertoire for the oboe. Many major British composers wrote new works for him, including Vaughan-Williams, Jacob, Bax, Bowen, Bliss, and Britten.
One of the lesser-known pieces written for Léon Goossens is the Concerto, Op. 45 (1927) composed by his brother Eugène Goossens. Originally intended for Léon’s 1928 American debut, the single movement concerto was performed by the venerated oboist numerous times in both its original version with piano accompaniment and the orchestrated version. This challenging work evokes the pastoral style with sweeping melodic lines, a variety of articulation styles, and virtuosic flourishes above the thundering piano in the cadenza. Written to show off his brother’s dazzling skills, the Concerto, Op. 45 is a worthy contribution to the oboe repertoire and a fitting tribute to the musicianship of Léon Goossens.
Recording Date: September 8, 2007
Recording Location: University of Maryland
Ensemble Type: Piano and Oboe
Performers: Heather Baldwin Killmeyer, oboe, Matthew Bachman, piano
About the Music
Composer: Eugene Goossens
Instrumentation: Oboe and Piano
Date Composed: 1927
Date First Performed: January, 1929
Concerto, Opus 45