Jennifer Higdon’s Oboe Concerto: Majesty, Beauty, and Grace

Regarding her Oboe Concerto, composed in 2005, American composer Jennifer Higdon writes, “I have always thought of the oboe as being a most majestic instrument, and it was a pleasure to be able to create a work that would highlight its beauty and grace.”

Unfolding in a single movement, the Concerto begins with the nostalgic, pastoral voice of the solo oboe, emerging on an extended B-flat over a serene, searching chorale in the strings. This floating tone, also heard at the conclusion of the piece, evokes the oboe’s long tuning note, a summoning call which brings together disparate orchestral forces. When discussing the commission, Higdon recalls a description of the “buttery” tuning note of oboist Kathryn Greenbank, who gave the premiere with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

With echoes of the music of Samuel Barber and David Diamond, expansive, wandering phrases suggest an endless, wide open American landscape. Higdon says that “the beauty of the soaring line intrigued me as a starting point,” opening the door to conversations among an array of instrumental voices, including the solo violin, clarinet, and English horn. The playful spirit of the oboe can be heard in two faster scherzi sections which dance amid a soft, percussive backdrop. In the final moments, ecstatic voices crescendo over an ostinato bass line, something akin to a modern-day passacaglia, before the oboe fades into serene repose.

Victoria Chung, Principal Oboist of the Richmond Symphony, describes the experience of learning the Concerto as “humbling and empowering.” She adds, “My only hope is that one listener would be captured by the sound of the oboe, as Jennifer Higdon was.”


  • Higdon: Oboe Concerto, James Button, Giancarlo Guerrero, Nashville Symphony Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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