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8 - Performance and Reflections: Holt's music for oboe and cor anglais

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2018

Melinda Maxwell
Affiliation:
RNCM
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Summary

SIMON HOLT'S TASTE IN MUSIC is extraordinarily eclectic. Rameau, Morton Feldman or David Bowie (to name a few of his favourites) are composers who spur his imagination. This diversity influences not only how his music is conceived but how it is subsequently notated and performed. He has a strong desire to compose music that is relevant for today, music that can communicate with any type of listener. It manages to express the inexpressible, the mysterious world of feelings and the subconscious, with great intensity. It can touch on the terrifyingly beautiful in a timeless moment. He captures exhilarating qualities of awe, deadly stillness, tender yearnings and violent exclamations, and couches these in a unique modern language full of surprise and unpredictability. It is music that is alluring and captivating.

The very Spanish idea of duende, the moment at which an outer spiritual force takes control in performance, particularly in Flamenco, is an energy that relates to his musical personality because of its passionate and uncompromising nature. The paintings of Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) and the unforgiving terrain of the Andalucian countryside – whether the endless olive groves or the vast plains of La Mancha – all reflect his sensibility. These connections to Spanish culture, and his eclectic ear, inform Holt's musical thinking on every level.

Over the years Holt has written five works for me. They have been a revelation and a privilege to receive and to learn. All have his special essence of uncompromising beauty. They are virtuosic, physically challenging and demand an exhilarating expression, in some cases desperate in their intention.

Banshee for oboe and percussion, H 24, 1994, revised 1996

Sphinx for cor anglais and tuned gongs, H 32, 2000

5 settings of E.D. for countertenor or mezzo-soprano and oboe, H 44, 2005

disparate for solo oboe, H 46, 2005

disparate dos for oboe and ensemble, H 57, 2009

This chapter will explore the music from a player's perspective, showing approaches to technique and interpretation, and show how the music works in performance. I will also suggest how Holt's music relates to the growing canon of contemporary music for oboe. His music requires many decisions about timbre, dynamic, tempo and articulation that can affect how the music speaks and is communicated. One's decisions are made through processes that are primarily practical, but directed towards how the music needs to express itself.

Type
Chapter
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The Music of Simon Holt
, pp. 161 - 177
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

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