There is inevitably a certain monochromatic quality in an evening devoted entirely to music for oboe. But last night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Heinz Holliger found amazing variety in that slender reed.
Holliger's program, performed with breathtaking technique, ranged through three centuries, from a sonata that Mozart originally composed for violin and piano to the world premiere of a Duo Concertante for oboe and piano by Antal Dorati. In between came Dorati's Five Pieces for unaccompanied oboe, composed in 1981 and dedicated to Holliger; Three Folk Songs by Bartok; Beethoven's charming, insignificant Variations on "La ci darem" from "Don Giovanni" and Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, which was actually composed for horn and sounded a bit thin on the oboe.
Dorati's Duo is actually a Hungarian rhapsody in the traditional form made familiar by Liszt. Combining throbbing Hungarian soul with a lot of virtuoso fireworks, it should become popular among oboists if anyone but Holliger is able to play it. But there was more variety and imagination in the same composer's Five Pieces--notably the first, a tiny tone poem on LaFontaine's fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper with vivid characterizations, dramatic action, a bit of pathos and even wordless hints of dialogue.
Pianist John Steele Ritter was an able partner for the amazing oboist.