This oboe quartet written for oboe and string trio was written in 2001 by the American composer Elliott Carter who was in his 90s at the time. It was composed for the oboist Heinz Holliger and comprises six duets that combine the oboe and the three other string instruments involved, i.e. the violin, viola and cello.
The piece which lasts approximately quarter of an hour has been described as “busy”, “imaginative” and “ever-evolving” by one source, “fluid” and “rhythmically varied” by another and “exciting” by yet another. Whatever way, it has obviously caught the interest of the listener.
Oboe Quartet received its world premiere at Mattheuskirche in Lucerne in November 2001 where it was performed by Heinz Holliger, the violinist Thomas Zehetmair, the violist Ruth Killius and the cellist Thomas Demenga.
However it has been described, the work won itself a 2004 Grammy nomination for “Best Chamber Music Performance” on the premiere recording The Music of Elliott Carter, Volume 5 by the contemporary chamber ensemble Speculum Musicae. The oboe solo is performed by the ensemble member Stephen Taylor.
It has also appeared on Heinz Holliger’s Double CD box set Lauds and Lamentations: Music of Elliott Carter and Isang Yun and the celebration recording in honour of Elliott Carter’s 100th birthday Happy Birthday, Elliott Carter: New Chamber Works performed by the Swiss Chamber Soloists.