The oboe d'amore (pronounced [ˈɔːboe daˈmoːre]; Italian for "oboe of love"), less commonly hautbois d'amour, is a double reed woodwind musical instrument in the oboe family. Slightly larger than the oboe, it has a less assertive and a more tranquil and serene tone, and is considered the mezzo-soprano of the oboe family, between the oboe (soprano) and the cor anglais, or English horn (alto). It is a transposing instrument, sounding a minor third lower than it is notated, i.e. in A. The bell is pear-shaped and the instrument uses a bocal, similar to but shorter than that of the cor anglais.
(Double-reeded aerophone with keys)
Invention and use
The oboe d'amore was invented in the eighteenth century and was first used by Christoph Graupner in his cantata Wie wunderbar ist Gottes Güt (1717). Johann Sebastian Bach wrote many pieces—a concerto, many of his cantatas, and the Et in Spiritum sanctum movement of his Mass in B minor—for the instrument. Georg Philipp Telemann also frequently employed the oboe d'amore.
Its popularity waning in the late eighteenth century, the oboe d'amore fell into disuse for about 100 years until composers such as Richard Strauss (Symphonia Domestica, where the instrument represents the child), Claude Debussy (Gigues, where the oboe d'amore has a long solo passage), Maurice Ravel, Frederick Delius, and others began using it once again in the early years of the twentieth century. It can be heard in Toru Takemitsu's Vers, l'arc-en-ciel, Palma (1984), but its most famous modern usage is, perhaps, in Ravel's Boléro (1928), where the oboe d'amore follows the E-flat clarinet to recommence the main theme for the second time. Gustav Mahler employed the instrument once, in Um Mitternacht (1901), one of his five Rückert-Lieder. American composer William Perry uses the oboe d'amore in his film scores and most recently in the third movement of his Jamestown Concerto for cello and orchestra (2007). In his orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Vladimir Ashkenazy uses the oboe d'amore to highlight the plaintive solo of the Il vecchio castello movement.
Modern makers of oboes d'amore include Howarth of London (instruments in African blackwood or cocobolo wood), F. Lorée in Paris (instruments in African blackwood or violetwood) and others such as French makers Rigoutat, Fossati and Marigaux, Italian maker Bulgheroni (who offer instruments in grenadilla, violetwood, cocobolo, rosewood, palisander, and cocus wood), Japanese maker Joseph and German makers Püchner, Mönnig and Ludwig Franck. New instruments cost approximately £8,250 at 2016 prices (roughly $11,885 US), comparable to the cost of a new cor anglais. This cost, coupled with the limited call for the instrument, leads many oboists not to possess their own oboe d'amore, but to rent one when their work dictates the need. For the same reason, however, second-hand oboes d'amore surface from time to time with very little wear, demonstrating they were well loved (and yet with very little reduction in price over a new instrument).
- Virginia Snodgrass Gifford: Music for oboe, oboe d'amore, and English horn. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut 1983, ISBN 0-313-23762-X.