The setting was a little different
Not many classical concerts start with an outline of the bushfire evacuation plan. Oboe Origins, however, was being performed in the Broadford Salon and is nestled in thick bush land not far from the foot of Mt Piper, about an hour out of Melbourne. Outside it was 34 degrees and we could see smoke in the distance.
The baroque oboe was center stage
Jane Downer’s instrument is a copy of an oboe from the 1720s. It has far fewer keys than a modern oboe, with finger holes drilled directly into the light coloured boxwood body like a recorder. Its tone is more strident than its modern counterpart but is capable of producing a range of interesting tone colours. As the concert title suggests we heard pieces written for oboe in the 17th and early 18th centuries. All of the pieces were short and quite different to each other. The audience’s attention was held easily as we were quickly taken on a journey with varied musical moods, tempos and styles.
To play a one hour oboe recital on such a hot day is a bit like running a marathon but Jane showed she was up to the task. Fast runs were tossed off with ease and beautiful melodic lines emerged as she made the oboe sing. Peter Hagen’s accompanying showed how to expertly support a soloist and the musical dialogue between the two demonstrated a lovely sharing of the limelight.
The intimacy of chamber music at its best
Part of the attraction of the Broadford Salon is that it only seats an audience of about 45. It’s an intimate place for a performance. Being 3-4 metres away from the performers means you can see the flying fingers on the harpsichord, hear the intake of breath before a musical phrase begins, but more importantly we, as audience, are a part of something magical as this music is performed live for us. Oh, did I mention there’s also the bonus of having a drink of wine in the gardens with the performers afterwards?