Repertoire for rare double reeds

Repertoire for rare double reeds

The repertoire is downloaded by many players and Jennifer wishes the British and Australasian double-reed societies to have direct links to it. Jennifer has also written past articles in our own Reeding Matter as well as publishing several Australian and NZ composers - Edwin Carr, Ian Keith Harris and James Gardner, who may be of particular interest. Ian Keith Harris is also an oboist who played in the orchestras in Melbourne, Sydney, and New Zealand before concentrating on composition.

Each score contains a composer biography and a full programme note and cover so that putting it into a binder makes a complete book. There is a sound recording too.

The link to the archive is and there are even Christmas Carols for a consort group by Ian Keith Harris, the Australian composer. That would surely be fun for a small group or large ensemble to play together.

[blockquotes]Working exclusively for rare instruments is not a question of making money. It’s a question of creating the repertoire so that they cease to be ‘rare’. My goal has been to make them well known to composers. When I first started working with the d’amore in 1964, there were no more than a dozen or so instruments in GB. Nobody wanted to play it or even knew about it and there certainly was virtually no repertoire. I am delighted to say things are now very different. I hope you and your members will avail themselves freely of it!

Jennifer Paull, 26 June 2018[/blockquotes] 

The ADRS is extremely grateful to Jennifer for this gift and is sure that much pleasure will be derived from this music.

Jennifer's publications will be featured in June on The New Oboe Music Project Website. She was asked by them to introduce and explain how she went about obtaining her repertoire. Jennifer has kindly shared the article with the ADRS. A very interesting read:

The Oboe d’amore: Mission Impossible

Jennifer Paull dedicated her entire career to the promotion of her instrument. The acknowledged pioneer and soloist of the oboe d’amore explains in this article, how it was that she set about her mission.

I first came across the words ‘Oboe d’amore’ in the early 1960s atop a page of the St Matthew Passion (Bach), during my first professional engagement. I was a student at the Liverpool Matthey School of Music at the time. As was the norm in those days, the obbligato had been transposed for oboe. There were literally so few instruments in the British Isles at that time, I seriously doubt the sum total would have exceeded a dozen. Even when I went on to the Royal College of Music in London, nobody had a single positive word to say about it. My Professor, Terence McDonagh, told me they were dreadful things, out of tune and useless, which he hoped (in vain) would quell my enthusiasm for so lost a cause.

A very few orchestras had one of their own and a member of the oboe section was obliged to play it two or three times a year or so, if (s)he couldn’t get out of the ‘chore’ in spite of trying everything to do just that! When the orchestra didn’t own an instrument, one was borrowed from somewhere else and sent via post. You can imagine how well that went down as fingering systems are not necessarily compatible, let alone reeds and any necessary adjustments due to shipping. Nobody had an oboe d’amore reed shaper – they were even more rare than moon rock was about to become half a decade later. So, the very mention of the words, ‘oboe d’amore’ inspired panic. Not in me! It was curiosity that nibbled away constantly at my mind and one fine day, during my RCM studies, I went to the Brompton Oratory and heard the B Minor Mass (Bach again!) with a real oboe d’amore for the first time! That was it!! My life changed in the course of one heavenly obligato.

I was fully aware by then, that there wasn’t much orchestral repertoire and precious little chamber music outside the Baroque. What little there was, was transposed for oboe and played that way far more often than not. I decided I had to get hold of one of my own – not an easy step at all and another story altogether!

I did obtain one (made for me in Paris in 1964) and that is when my future path modified dramatically. I was playing oboe and cor anglais in London orchestras by this time (BBC and ECO only as the others did not accept women in their wind sections – yet another story!) and became known as the oboe d’amore specialist to solve everybody’s panic moments. I travelled all over the country playing oboe d’amore and after a few years of this, I realised that my vocation was not to play it just every now and then with a diet of oboe and cor anglais taking up the majority of my time. I wanted to play it all the time and make its lack of repertoire my mission to solve and purpose to perform. How on earth could I do that, I wondered? It became obvious to me after a while. What I needed was to stop orchestral playing and find a way to work directly with composers. In those days, there were no music management courses or the like, so it was just a matter of thinking things through carefully. Composers were people who needed promotion. I needed repertoire. Perhaps there could be mutual benefit somewhere there? All very well, of course, but how was I going to earn a living, I wondered?

In 1970, having decided I had to turn hope into action, the only thing to do was open an Artists’ Management company of my own. I would promote others and do my best for them to generate some income, making myself contacts for my own performances at the same time. Within a couple of weeks, I had a healthy list of artists as I phoned my friends and they contacted theirs. Amongst them were several composers who also conducted or played the piano. One in particular, was about to change everything.

John McCabe was one of the nicest, unassuming yet brilliant musicians I ever met. He was a superlative pianist and we decided to give concerts together. His compositions were published by Novello & Co and although it was not my brief, promoting his music at the same time as the man himself was more or less inevitable. Basil Ramsey, Novello’s Director of Publications offered me the position of Promotion Manager and I jumped at it. This meant I had a base from which to contact even more composers and work for the promotion of their music. I did stipulate though that I was to be able to continue to perform. During this period, John wrote an oboe d’amore concerto for me, which I premiered with the Havant Chamber Orchestra. Other composers arranged suitable, already published works of theirs for oboe (or other instruments) into a version for oboe d’amore (Francis Chagrin, Wilfred Josephs, Martin Dalby, etc.). Gradually, as I was performing the beginnings of a new repertoire mixed with Baroque, more friends began to write original music for me. Edwin Carr, Leonard Salzedo and John Rushby-Smith were amongst the first. The list of oboe d’amore compositions was growing exponentially.

In 1971, the Queen opened a second tunnel under the River Mersey and a Royal Command Performance of artists from Liverpool was arranged for her by Bernard Delfont. The Merseyside Arts Association commissioned a work from John McCabe (also originally from Liverpool) for me to play. Surely the strangest concert ever, there we were playing, sandwiched between Rex Harrison, Ken Dodd, Jerry and The Pacemakers and The Beverly Sisters!

One day, the BBCSO phoned wanting to book me for a performance of Mahler 9. I asked who was conducting. Bruno Maderna was the reply. I was going to say, as I usually did, that I no longer played in orchestras, but something made me ask that question and I am so glad I accepted the engagement. Meeting the father figure of the avant-garde was again, a life changing moment.
I spoke to him after the rehearsal in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios and he was very interested in what I was doing. Bruno had written two oboe concertos for Lothar Koch at this point and the second included musette, oboe d’amore and cor anglais. A third was to follow, written for Han de Vries and I was asked to write the programme notes for its premiere with the BBCSO with Maderna conducting. By now I was doing a lot of text writing for composers, who were notoriously hopeless at it.

Novello was owned by Granada TV and we collaborated on programme ideas. One such was to be a filmed biography series of several outstanding contemporary composers. It didn’t see the light of day, unfortunately, whereas my idea of putting the Hallé wind section in a barge on Lake Windermere to play the Fireworks Music (Händel), did! It was even awarded an international TV prize, but no mention of its instigation by me, of course. All this enabled me to get to know Maderna as we spoke about the proposed programme and he introduced me to several of his friends including Luigi Nono and Cathy Berberian. By this time, I needed help at Novello’s and I had asked another composer friend, Chris Hazell, to come and work with me. Chris went on to have a long successful career as a producer with Decca and is one of the best arrangers there is; his latest moment of recognisable magic being the musical arrangements for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.

Through Maderna, my life was about to change yet again. His impresario, Sylvio Samama, was based outside Hilversum and suggested that I open a London branch of his business in my home in Upper Berkeley Street. The experience with my own management company had come in very handy! I spent one week a month in the Netherlands and again, my links to artists and composers grew. This company, de Koos Concert Management, had an incredible list of artists and I was meeting them all as well as looking after them when they were in GB. One was Libor Pesek. He needed some of his Czech concert reviews translated so that I could promote his conducting career in GB, where he was unknown at the time. Luckily, my brilliant polyglot father rose to the occasion as he always did.

In October 1971, the Shah of Iran hosted the most extravagant celebrations for the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great, in Persepolis. Immediately prior to this, in September, The Festival of the Arts Shiraz-Persepolis took place in the same location. Bruno Maderna, The Hague’s Residentie Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Cathy Berberian were to première his Festival-commissioned work ‘Austrahlung’. Maderna hadn’t fully completed the score and my job was to see to it that he burned the midnight oil until he had done - no computers in those days, copyists on standby!

Cathy introduced me to John Cage and Merce Cunningham who were there with Merce’s dance company. Stockhausen, too, was in attendance and I was to try to interest him in the proposed Granada TV biographical series of composer portraits. I networked considerably and was invited back to attend the next Festival, the following year. This time I was asked by the Iranian Ministry of Culture to coordinate their National Ballet Company’s visit to Sadler’s Wells. That went off well and I was subsequently entrusted with the organisation of the music for the official government film that had been made of the 2,500th celebrations. Orson Welles was in charge of the script and they needed someone to organise the music. In Teheran, I had been introduced to Loris Tjeknavorian by Farhad Mechkat, the Musical Director of the Teheran Symphony Orchestra, who had been with us in Persepolis. Loris, at that time, was virtually unknown outside certain restricted circles, although he was in charge of the Teheran Opera. He played me some of his unpublished piano music, which I was sure would be exactly what Basil Ramsey at Novello’s would like. He did and Loris came to London. His music for the son et lumière at Persepolis had won prizes and so he had been the natural choice for the film score. I booked the LPO to record the soundtrack, an orchestra in which I was unable to play as an oboist because I was a woman. “Don’t book me, I’ll book you.” That felt good!

By this time, Cathy Berberian had introduced me to Sylvano Bussotti and Luciano Berio, her ex-husband, who told me that I could play his Sequenza Vll on oboe d’amore. Bruno Maderna wanted to write a concerto for oboe d’amore as well as a theatre piece for Cathy (Voice) and myself (Oboe d’amore) together, rather along the lines of Stockhausen’s ‘Harlekin’. He saw us portraying two characters from the Commedia dell’arte.

These projects would have been the perfect way of getting my instrument beneath the 20th century spotlight I knew it so deserved. Very sadly, not long after this, Bruno was taken ill and died in 1973 before he was able to bring these plans to fruition.

Pretty shaken, I decided that I would move my focus back entirely to performance for a while. Composers would only keep on writing if I kept on performing, which is what I had promised in exchange for their work and I needed to concentrate on that. I moved to The Netherlands and freelanced, giving recitals wherever I could. There was plenty of opportunity to play and I recorded some of the pieces I had amassed for the radio, in Hilversum. A few years later, I moved to Switzerland where my family had been based since just before WWll. I put down roots, had four wonderful children and continued with my mission from my new permanent base.

More composers wrote for me and old friends added new works. Edwin Carr and Leonard Salzedo each composed six! Both of them had also written for what I decided to call an ‘Oboe Consort’ and I created my own group. This is a quartet of oboes to encompass the entire family from musette to bass. It really is a glorious sound! I was equally aware of the need for music for the other rare oboes, the musette and bass. I met Derek Bell, harpist of The Chieftains, bass oboe specialist and composer. He played bass oboe in my Amoris Consort and introduced me to composer friends of his. One, William Blezard, also wrote two pieces for me – and so the list continued to expand.

I was very much aware of how much I owed these friends who had given their time and talent to my mission. They knew full well that nobody would publish their works as compositions for oboe d’amore were far too narrow a specialist market to interest the big publishers. John McCabe’s ‘Dance Prelude’, published by Novello, includes a clarinet option uniquely to increase sales, not something he or I wanted. John Rushby-Smith’s ‘Monologue’ was published originally by Simrock (now Boosey & Hawkes) as an oboe piece, oboe d’amore being the alternative option! In reality that was the reverse, but these companies were based upon profit, which we all understood. The oboe repertoire has always been oboe first with some cor anglais very much second. I decided that I had to do something about that as well, so I started my own publishing house, Amoris International, to specialise in the oboe d’amore first and foremost! The other rare oboes and all of the oboe family of instruments would be represented as well and I would record as much of my repertoire as I could. I didn’t want to keep it for myself, it was for everybody to play so that the oboe d’amore would become part of every oboist’s standard equipment.

The Australian composer and former oboist, Ian K. Harris joined the fold and he wrote a total of sixteen pieces! He also copied the entire catalogue so that everything could be put online, a monumental and dedicated task he undertook with great skill. The cost of paper scores and their distribution in the digital age was prohibitive in such a restricted speciality and I realised the future clearly lay in this exciting new direction.

Several American and British composers joined up and the portfolio continued to expand. Yet, there was something missing. I wanted to bring some beautiful Baroque music I had researched to life for oboe d’amore, but also cor anglais. I included a full continuo and keyboard realisation with figured bass for anyone who wished to improvise. I worked on a series I entitled Les Tableaux Galants and began another, The Sonata Series. The oboe d’amore, but also the cor anglais can play these works with ease as can the oboe and bassoon.

Frequently, when compiling programme notes, I had discovered there was little or no information readily available about a contemporary composer’s life or works. A great deal of the programme note research and composer biographies I had written during and subsequent to my time at Novello’s had been done before the digital world and Google. I knew how complicated it could be to find and piece together sufficient interesting and informative material. Frequently, there just wasn’t anything available about a certain work and there still isn’t, even today. I wanted Amoris to be a scholarly edition, every score to contain its own programme note and composer biography to help the performer.

In 2001, I had begun writing articles and essays on music for my friend Basil Ramsey, who by this time had left Novello and was publishing the daily online classical music magazine, ‘Music and Vision’, which, since Basil’s death, has become ‘Classical Music Daily’. Like Bruno Maderna, my dear friend Cathy Berberian also died far too young, in 1983. Both of them had only been in their 50s. I compiled many stories as well as a section dedicated exclusively to her into a book I entitled, Cathy Berberian and Music’s Muses. Not long after doing this, I decided it was time for me to retire. I first ensured that all my Amoris catalogue was available online at the WIMA Music Archive and IMSLP, which then took over the files. I wanted it to be easily accessible to everyone.
My work had been for my instrument in making new repertoire: that was what it had all been about. I had envisaged this on two fronts: the solo repertoire, but also the orchestral. Working with so many composers over the years had enabled me to plead my instrument’s case time and time again. The first composer to include oboe d’amore in his orchestration at my behest had been John McCabe, who had written a very important oboe d’amore obbligato into his second Violin Concerto.

By this time over 50 years since I first started, many people owned their own oboes d’amore as they had become more and more frequent in the orchestral repertoire. The trickle of works by composers such as Debussy and Ravel, who had possessed enough imagination to score for one, was by now a stream, if not exactly a flood.

I had a feeling of mission accomplished, although there is still a great deal to do before the oboe d’amore is accepted as a voice in its own right as the viola has now become. After all, it is no longer considered as simply an appendage of the violin. By this time, I felt there was a healthy selection of music available offering alternative options. Nobody, ever again, would need to confront a total lack of repertoire as I once had done.

This mission has been a mosaic of pieces in which all the aspects of music I touched to form it were a part of its fabric. From artist management to publishing, impresario to promotion manager, orchestral player to chamber musician, soloist to writer, each aspect networked connections that created it. What stuck it together was glue - the glue ‘of love’, which is d’amore in Italian, Amoris in Latin – and that is how it all began.

© Jennifer I. Paull
Vouvry, April 2020

Amoris International at the WIMA Music Archive
Cathy Berberian and Music’s Muses