Instrumentation notes – Oboe & Cor Anglais

  • If flutes are ‘sopranos’ of woodwind section, oboes & cor anglais are altos
  • Double reeded instrument made of wood
  • Family:
    Oboe in C – sounds as written
    English Horn in F (Cor Anglais) – sounds 5th lower than written
    Oboe d’amore in A – sounds a minor 3rd lower than written
    Baritone oboe in C (rare) – sounds octave lower than written
    Heckelphone in C (rare) – sounds octave lower than written
  • Written range of family:
    Oboe playing range
    * All instruments in this family get quieter the higher they play
  • Sound: general note – tone in this family of instruments depends on the style of reed used so tonal character is hard to predict.
    Lower range of oboe is rich, reedy, hard to subdue (mf lowest dynamic)
    Middle range is clear and penetrating
    Highest 5th/6th range is thin, less rich but still penetrating
  • Character: very agile. Very smooth legatos, precise staccatos, rapid scales, a variety of trills and ornaments all clear. Vibrato is standard element of its tone. Tremelos possible but not above perfect 4th as awkward. Cor Anglais often used in very slow pastoral settings but still as agile as oboe. More delicate and rounded than oboe; veiled, poignant quality (lightness of tone allows it to blend with all instruments, especially at octave)
  • Technique: Don’t need as much air as flutes; need rests to exchange stale air for fresh

Reference:
Blatter, A (1997). Instrumentation & Orchestration. 2nd ed. USA: Schirmer. Pgs 98-100

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