In the past I’ve shied away from writing a concerto (not that requests for these arrive every week, of course.) I think something about the concert manners of the form has put me off – the obligatory preening of the soloist on the platform, the way the orchestra are soon obliterated from musical attention. Many of my favourite pieces are in fact concerti – but how rarely you hear a Mozart concerto, or even a Beethoven, in today’s symphony orchestra world.
These negative thoughts flew away, at least temporarily, during an inspiring week spent with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra to hear the premiere of… that thing I had hitherto avoided, a new concerto written by me. Oboe soloist Celia Craig was always calmly poised onstage, having over the last six months impeccably prepared for this musical conversation with the orchestra. Even standing up to play a continuously challenging twenty-minute solo seemed a feat to me, though Celia told me she welcomed not being seated while performing.
Propitiously, the premiere concerts were conducted by a great ex-oboe player, Douglas Boyd; somehow, another fine British oboist, David Cowley, turned out to be sitting in the audience. Adelaide also has a particularly active chapter of the Australasian Double Reed Society, quite a few of whom who were at the concerts encouraging us along. I don't have entirely easy memories of the years I myself played the instrument, with the usual attendant difficulties. But this was like revisiting my own oboe-playing times, amidst friendly company, in a more optimistic spirit.