“Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra: The Clearing”


“The recording’s most successful work by far—an enjoyable and admirable work—is the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (2006). Subtitled The Clearing it is a seventeen-minute, single-movement tone poem that seems to begin in medias res. Commissioned by Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, the Symphony’s principal oboe, The Clearing refers to the peace evoked in Psalm 23. DeAlmeida sings with an astonishing tone, holding exquisitely sculpted high notes, each phrase blooming delicately. A neoclassical canon between the oboe and the bassoon introduces the middle section, which is darker and more agitated than the pastoral opening. Its simplicity recalls Virgil Thomson’s film music. Gestures toward dark climactic moments resolve unexpectedly into quiet passages until they finally open into a passage that almost abandons the tightly wound motivic repetitions—but it remains disciplined and Apollonian rather than permitting the underground Dionysian energy to flow freely. A slow solo cadenza then unfolds a gorgeous melody, a kind of developing thought that aims for peace and a higher understanding. According to Richman, this passage “intones the entire psalm in the form of a prayer-aria.” More and more clans of the orchestra enter until a slowly rocking waltz takes shape. To conclude, a faster, vaguely oriental dance emerges with strong percussion and an ostinato figure, a Dionysian bacchanal that sounds like a draft from Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila.”