Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was a French composer during what is considered to be the golden age of 20th century music. He is often correlated with Claude Debussy. They both were prominent composers during the Impressionist era, but Ravel’s music is actually very different. He was a masterful orchestrator, "re-composing" music of different eras and experimenting with exotic (foreign) musical influences. He is also considered a neoclassical composer as his music is very balanced and refined. But in spite of classical influences, his music fully embodies the Impressionist style— experimentation with colors in timbre and texture as well as tonal ambiguity—that is often associated with Debussy and other composers at the turn of the 20th century.
The Sonatine for Oboe and Piano was originally an arrangement for piano. It is believed to have been written between 1903-5. I first heard this work performed a few years ago by Eugene Izotov, the principal oboist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I immediately fell in love with it, especially the second movement, Mouvement de Menuet. I performed it for my recital that completed my masters degree in music performance.
I particularly love the use of color and melodies in the Menuet. This piece explores the higher range of the oboe, which is a difficult range to play in tune while maintaining a full and dark sound. When played well, the sound that emanates is a beautiful, alluring impression unique to the oboe. Another difficulty in performing this piece well is aligning the colors in sound, phrasing and dynamics with the style. This necessitates a manipulation in airspeed and, sometimes, a change in the vowel-shape of my mouth as I play. I don't analyze every aspect of this. It is more important that I "hear" in my head what I want the piece to sound like. My body follows.
With this piece—and anything I play—it is usually more important that I determine what I want to express through the music. How does this piece speak to me? What do I want to share with the audience? What is the style of the piece? What was the composer trying to convey? When I focus on these things first, I am able to tackle the difficult technical aspects of the music within the context of expression.
Music really does have its own language and communicates without words. Because music (especially music without lyrics) is such an abstract form of art, concrete ideas and thoughts seem to diminish its effect. However, it is still helpful to use adjectives that help me decide what I want to express. The Mouvement de Menuet is, to me, “haunting,” “nostalgic,” “simple” and “sweet.” Sometimes I see in my head a picture or a phrase, color or mood. And sometimes it is important just to play and let the music speak for itself.
Jennifer Stucki maintains a multi-faceted career that includes organizing and performing solo recitals, performing with various ensembles, and teaching throughout the Chicago area. She is the principal oboist in the Skokie Valley Symphony and has performed with the South Bend Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Fifth House Ensemble, and the New Millennium Orchestra among others. From 2005-2009, she was the principal oboist for the Navy Band and part of the Fair Winds Woodwind Quintet. She has worked under several of the area's leading conductors, including Sir Andrew Davis, Jane Glover, Alan Heatherington, Cliff Colnot, and Francesco Milioto. She has been a featured soloist with the Skokie Valley Symphony, the Navy Band, and the Logos Symphony Orchestra.
A native of Colorado, Jennifer moved to Chicago in 2000 to attend the Chicago College of Performing Arts. She went on to earn her masters degree from DePaul University. She has studied with Jelena Dirks, Eugene Izotov, Grover Schiltz and Scott Hostetler. While attending CCPA, she was also invited to perform in the Baroque Ensemble Collegium Musicum by Chicago's renowned keyboard artist David Schrader. In addition, she has performed in master classes given by Alex Klein, Robert Walters and Carolyn Hove.
On this track:
Jennifer Stucki, Oboe
Kirsten Figard, Piano
Arranged by David Walter
"Singletrack" is CAR's Artist Story for Chicago performers in which songwriters, bands, playwrights, actors and writers discuss the creation of a recorded work alongside audio or video clips of the performance. To submit your song for consideration, please email our researchers.