The Strauss Oboe Concerto is my favorite oboe concerto. I have studied it intimately and performed it many times. (It was the subject of my 2002 doctoral dissertation at the University of Arizona, Three versions of the Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra (1945-1946), revised 1948 by Richard Strauss: An analytical and historical study for the performer.) I know every aspect of this concerto, including just how difficult it is to perform. I have tremendous respect for anyone who can perform it with the supreme elegance, style, and sophistication that I witnessed in Eugene Izotov’s performance. Too often, this piece is performed in a way that seems to emphasize its challenging endurance issues and places too much focus on showing off the soloist's technical prowess. I was thrilled to witness an interpretation that gave the listener a true sense of Strauss' style and demonstrated an awareness of the connections the concerto has to Strauss' complete artistic life. Izotov gave the work a wonderful sense of reflection and seemed to treat the work with great reverence. Truly outstanding performances of Strauss' Oboe Concerto make you forget that the work is incredibly challenging for the soloist. Izotov's did just that. It was a wonderful tribute to William Bennett, principal oboist of the San Francisco Symphony who collapsed on stage during a performance of Strauss’ Concerto (February 22, 2013) and later passed away on February 28, 2013.
My oboe students were also thrilled and a bit awestruck. This concert will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives and hopefully be a memory they will draw upon for inspiration if and when they ever decide to learn the work. It was a long day, but they had a great time exploring Chicago together before meeting me for dinner and going to the concert. A late train ride back post concert and then, for some, up to a four hour drive home. It was no small task for them to come from all over the state of Michigan to downtown Chicago just for one concert! It was well worth it, however, and something that I am sure we will do again. This was definitely CMU Oboe Studio Bonding at its best!