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Oboe and its place in music history

The oboe's noble history dates back hundreds of years prior to many of its modern orchestral counterparts. This rich history lends a plethora of solo compositions written by prominent composers of every musical era. Such outstanding composers include Richard Strauss, Paul Hindemith, Heinrich von Herzogenberg and George Friedrich Handel. Each of these German men lived through times of great political strife, war and turmoil within their own countries and throughout Europe. All of them composed solo or chamber works for the oboe during these tumultuous times. Through the examination of the circumstances surrounding the composition of each solo oboe piece, light will be shed on each of these four composer's decision making process in choosing to write for this particular medium. Through historical records the technical developments and origins of the oboe will be explored that also have factored into the periods of popularity in the oboe repertoire during the lifetimes of these great men. The oboe has consistently been associated with pastoral elements so it naturally follows that music would be written for it of the same characteristic. Pastoral elements with a rustic, tranquil and quaint lifestyle are often closely associated with an escape for the conscious mind during times of hardship and stress. Many pastoral scenes include representations of the Swiss Alps, the Mediterranean coast, and country landscapes. From its origin as the medieval shawm to its transition into the French hautboy, the oboe has been the chosen representation of shepherds, geese, birds and provincial scenes by monumental composers such as Hector Berlioz and J.S. Bach. Eventually the oboe became a representation for lost desire partially through its human representation of the female voice. Although it cannot communicate through words, the oboe's inability to convey linguistic meaning is what allows it to transcend words and communicate more directly through emotion. It is this voiceless longing that launched these composers' subconscious emotional thoughts of escaping reality that eventually led to the ultimate composition of these pieces, today considered to be cornerstones in the solo oboe repertoire

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