Quartet for Oboe and Strings (2012)
For Oboe, Violin, Viola, Violoncello
Commissioned by Winsor Music
Duration: 12 minutes
I think of my Quartet for Oboe and Strings as a sort of theatrical play. I treat the oboe and string trio as characters in a drama, engaging them in a series of dialogues and conversations that follow an emotional arc and narrative trajectory. While I didn't have a specific story in mind writing this piece, my work follows a narrative in the abstract – the characters lead us on an emotional journey, one that leaves us someplace new by the end, with memories of the musical events and interactions that have transpired. One may think of the oboe as the main protagonist, its lines quickly shifting between seriousness, playfulness, humor, declamation, passion, consolation and more. At times the string trio works together in conversing with the oboe, but in other instances the violin, viola and cello each act as major characters in their own right, engaging in dialogue with the other instruments, or talking past them to the audience. All this said, I would recommend not worrying about catching every note "said" between our four players, but sitting back and letting them bring you along with them. Quartet for Oboe and Strings was commissioned by Winsor Music for oboist Peggy Pearson.
- ERIC NATHAN
From the Liner Notes from the commercial recording on Albany Records:
[...] the Quartet for Oboe and Strings, composed for oboist Peggy Pearson’s Winsor Music series, suggests a musical drama with the oboist as protagonist. The string trio is both a single-minded collective and a group of individuals able to interact one-on-one with the oboe. The piece begins with a rapid, rising figure in the strings that seems to propel the oboe into the spotlight, a figure that recurs as signpost. In the first part, the oboe sings a long lyric line over the jumpy, agitated body of strings; gradually each of the strings develops its own personality and independence. Viola, then violin, emerge with lyric passages in conversation with the oboe, and a passage of imitative counterpoint suggests solidarity among equals. The oboe takes a cadenza-like soliloquy in the middle of the piece; the sympathetic violist’s response is over strummed chords in the violin and cello. The fast passage that develops from here re-establishes the oboe/strings balanced opposition; the closing coda is introspective.
- ROBERT KIRZINGER
Composer; Boston Symphony Orchestra Assistant Director of Program Publications, Editorial
Peggy Pearson (oboe), Emilie-Anne Gendron (violin), Stephanie Griffin (viola), Michael Haas (cello)
From "Multitude, Solitude: Eric Nathan" (Albany Records)
View Online Score
"... the winningly rhetorical Quartet for Oboe and Strings, which features a strong solo turn by oboist Peggy Pearson."
- Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (1.3.16)
"Eric Nathan’s Quartet for Oboe and Strings, artful in its transitions of mood and given a strong performance by the oboist Amanda Hardy, the violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron, the violist Stephanie Griffin and the cellist Michael Haas."
- Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times
"Expressiveness of almost opera buffa proportions shines through Quartet for Oboe & Strings. Oboist Peggy Pearson joins three Momenta members in the 12-minute piece. Complexity in the strings always serves the oboe, whose long phrases reflect an amusing self-importance. As full-bodied as the string instruments are, they seem in thrall to the vigor of the oboe, which manipulates the "plot" with subtly comical mastery."
"Oboist Peggy Pearson joined violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron, violist Stephanie Griffin, and cellist Michael Haas (violinist Adda Kridler sat out) for the Quartet for Oboe and Strings. This is a relatively simple piece: the strings accompany an extended, melodic solo from the oboe, but rather than homophony, the writing is inventively antiphonal. Each melodic statement is answered by a different, angular, upward moving riff, as if the strings are challenging the oboe to play something interesting over a new set of chords."
- George Grella, New York Classical Review (9.20.2014)