• Wish list
  • Choose your store
    All countries
  • 0

Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Oboes

2. History & Family

The oboe (from the French ‘hautboy’, literally ‘high wood’) is usually made from a black hardwood called grenadilla, and has silver-plated keywork and a double reed. Its sound is by turns round, sweet, lively, chirpy, haunting, plangent and penetrating. It can express perfectly both the death of the swan in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and the quacking duck in Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

The oboe evolved from the shawm in the late 17th Century. The shawm was made from a single piece of wood, had a double reed, and made a loud, raucous sound. The oboe was novel in that it was made from three separate pieces of wood, which allowed for far greater accuracy in tuning the holes, and made the sound much more refined. Initially it had only two keys and was made from boxwood, which produced a mellow, resonant tone.

Baroque oboe by Paul Hailperin, after Paulhahn

From about 1750, the bore began to narrow, which made the sound more penetrating. Gradually, more keys were added, principally to even out the sound between each note, but also to help players negotiate increasingly complex and chromatic music. In the early to mid 19th Century, oboes began to be made from hardwood as imported woods became more readily available, and by the late 19th Century, the oboe pretty much resembled the modern instrument, although technical developments continued with new ideas for fingering systems and side and trill keys. In essence though, a basic student model of today is not so different from the oboe of a hundred years ago.

Early-nineteenth century oboe, after Floth, by Richard Earle

To begin with, oboes were employed in bands, with standard instruments playing the top parts, tenor oboes taking the middle lines and bassoons providing the bass. They supplied music for ceremonies and functions both courtly and military. Little by little however, they were added to the strings in orchestras - they were in fact the first winds to be included, joined later by a pair of horns, and eventually the full wind section of flutes, clarinets and bassoons by the time of Mozart and Beethoven. The oboe has maintained its predominant position in the orchestra though, always responsible for giving the ‘A’ for tuning - a good first oboe is essential for a good orchestra, as its clear sound always cuts through and holds the orchestra together.

The tenor oboes mentioned above came in two forms in the 18th Century - straight ones called ‘tailles’, used in England by Purcell, and curved ones called ‘oboi da caccia’, which were covered in leather and had a flared metal (or wooden) bell like a hunting horn, as used by Bach in his Passions. They were in F, their lowest note being the F below middle C, and were the precursors to the cor anglais, or ‘English horn’. The cor anglais as it is known now first appeared in England in the 1790’s, and was praised for its plaintive, melancholy sound, used to great effect by Berlioz in the Symphonie Fantastique, and Dvorak in the New World Symphony.

Oboe da caccia, copy by Peter van der Poel

There is also an alto oboe, or oboe d’amore, in A - a little longer than the standard oboe, with a short curved crook and an egg-shaped bell. This too existed in the 18th Century, and was much loved by Bach for his Cantatas. After Bach, composers rarely used it - the most well known of the few examples in more recent music is Ravel’s Bolero.

Relatively few people choose to take up the oboe, especially by comparison with the flute and clarinet, which is a great shame considering its beauty. Those who do pursue it however, have the advantage that they will always be far more in demand by youth and amateur orchestras!

Your Contact People
Phone: +49-9546-9223-26
FAX: +49-9546-9223-24
Get Your Free Copy of our Hot Deals Catalogue!

More than 7.750.000 musicians are avid readers of Thomann's Hot Deals catalogue. Get your free copy now! More than 500 current offers!

Hot Deals
Question!
Question! Give the right answer and win 1x Stairville Led Bar 240/8 RGB DMX 30° worth 64 €.
Who is the only female credited with vocals on Pink Floyd´s ´The Wall´?
Conditions of participation
Terms and Conditions for participation
in online competitions

Note: Participation in an online competition runs independently from any purchase at Thomann GmbH. The following Competition Rules apply when participating in any online competition run by Musikhaus Thomann:

  1. Competition

    1. The competitions are organised by Thomann GmbH, CEO: Hans Thomann, Hans-Thomann-Straße 1, 96138 Burgebrach, Germany.
  2. Participation

    1. Competitions are only open to persons of full age.
    2. To take part in the competition you must answer all questions correctly, fill in the registration form and submit your entry to Thomann GmbH by pressing the "send" button.
      By pressing the "send" button the participant accepts the aforementioned terms and conditions.
    3. The participant is responsible for entering their email and/or postal address correctly. Entries to the competition will be logged electronically.
  3. Qualifying Entrants

    1. Staff of Thomann GmbH and any cooperation partners and their dependants are excluded from participation.
    2. Should these conditions of participation be violated, especially by using illegitimate means, Thomann GmbH reserves the right to exclude persons from the competition. In case of such violations prizes can be withdrawn and claimed back subsequently.
  4. Announcing the winner

    1. The winners will be notified by Thomann GmbH by email or in writing and their names may be published on the homepage www.thomann.de. The winner accepts this form of publication explicitly.
      Should for whatever reason the winner not claim their prize, then a new winner will be drawn.
    2. The prize presented to the winner may not be identical to the item description. There can be deviances regarding the model, colour etc.
    3. The merchandise prizes will be sent by Thomann GmbH or by one of its contracting delivery companies, per freight forwarder, courier or postal service to the postal address indicated by the winner.

      The delivery is free of charge. Only extra transport costs and customs/duties must be covered by the winner. In the case that the delivery has to be made through a freight forwarding company the freight forwarding company will contact the winner to arrange delivery timings.
    4. An exchange, cash alternative or replacement prize is not possible.
    5. The claim to the prize or replacement of the prize cannot be assigned to a third party.
  5. Data protection

    1. The participant accepts explicitly that Thomann GmbH saves all necessary data for the duration of the competition and forwards them exclusively for purposes related to the winning process to the respective cooperation partner, who is also permitted to save the personal data only for the duration of the competition. The participant is free to withdraw his entry at any time. Please direct the withdrawal to:

      Thomann GmbH
      to the data protection officer
      Hans-Thomann-Straße 1
      96138 Burgebrach, Germany
    2. Thomann GmbH is obliged to consider the regulations for data protection according to the Federal Data Protection Law (BDSG) valid at the conclusion of the competition. In this context the general data protection regulations under notes regarding data protection should be noted.
  6. Liability

    1. Thomann GmbH will be released from any obligations by handing out the prize.
    2. Thomann GmbH is not liable for the insolvency of a cooperation partner and the resulting consequences for the implementation and processing of the competition.
  7. Other

    1. Legal proceedings are barred.
    2. The law of the Federal Republic of Germany applies exclusively.
One of our groupies
Thomann's service and customer respect is excellent. Life long ambition now satisfied. Here's to many happy hours making music
graham.healxxx06@gmxxx.com, 13.12.2016

Oboes overview

Feedback

Found an error or want to give us feedback about this page?

We're looking forward to hearing from you and aim to solve any problems as soon as we can.

cancel