The Melancholic Oboe

Classical Academy | Instruments


The unmistakably clear and penetrating sound of the oboe has a feeling of melancholy about it. Its timbre, majestical and stately in character, lends itself to melodious solos that, thanks to its cylindrical bore, sing loud and clear over the texture of a full orchestra. It is to the oboe that the orchestra tunes itself, to what's known as a concert A, since the pitch of the oboe is secure and its penetrating sound makes it ideal to be heard be all members of the company. First appearing in the Baroque as what was previously called the hautbois (old French for high wood), it was largely during the Classical period that the oboe developed into the instrument we recognize today. It's certainly an instrument suited to the amateur craftsmen: professional oboists tend to make their own reeds as each one has a particular special requirement that makes mass produced reeds undesirable. This allows oboists to have absolute control over the range of tonal colour and tuning inherent to their instrument.


Sergei Prokofiev took a particular liking to the oboe, with its appearance in pride of place in his 6th Symphony and in Peter and the Wolf. Enjoy these works and more in our special selection of oboe music.