Douglas Boyd, an extraordinary young oboist, made his Washington debut yesterday in the Terrace Theater in the Young Concert Artists Series. With pianist Jeffrey Kahane as his partner, he treated the audience to an afternoon of summit-level musical dialogue.
Boyd has already recorded a substantial part of his instrument's best music. If he played the violin or cello at the level he brings to the oboe, he might be an international celebrity. But the chances are that he will continue to need orchestral work for a substantial part of his income. Fortunately, for him and for the orchestra, he is the principal oboist of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, one of the world's newest orchestras, but also one of its best, which will be performing at the Kennedy Center next Sunday.
The first half of Boyd's program focused on the 18th century, a golden age of oboe music. In sonatas by Telemann, Bach and Mozart (with Kahane playing harpsichord for the baroque items), Boyd explored subtleties of style and reveled in the slow movements that gave him opportunities to make his instrument sing. His control of the instrument was total, easy and assured; his knowledge of styles impeccable, his tone rich and beautifully rounded.
In the second half, he played Schumann's simple, songlike Romances, Op. 94, with limpid perfection, and swaggered his way gracefully (as did Kahane) through Kalliwoda's airheadedly showy "Morceau de Salon," Op. 228. But the highlight of the program, and one of the highlights of the season, was his unaccompanied performance of Benjamin Britten's "Six Metamorphoses After Ovid" -- succinct, vivid and technically brilliant little profiles from Greco-Roman mythology, each of which he introduced briefly with a rich Scottish accent.