Performing musicians are like salesmen. They sell us pieces of music that -- under ordinary circumstances -- we might not want to listen to.
This came to mind last night in Stephens Hall at Towson State University at the first evening concert of the International Double Reed Festival. Selling the piano, the violin or even the cello repertory is relatively easy: So much of the merchandise is quality stuff, bearing labels with names such as Chopin, Bach and Beethoven. The repertory for bassoon and oboe -- the two instruments performed upon last night -- is quite another matter. Selling the "Scenes Ecossaises" for oboe of Benjamin Godard (1849-1895) requires more of the art of persuasion than does Beethoven's Opus 111 piano sonata.
That is what made the performance of Richard Woodhams all the more wonderful. Woodhams, the principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was able to convince a listener that this music was a masterpiece. The man's breath control was phenomenal, the range of dynamics wide, the technique masterly and the playing extraordinarily fluid. He is so fine a player that he was able flawlessly to control his low register-- not the easiest thing to do on his instrument -- making it match the wispiest pianissimos produced by his fine pianist, Kiyoko Takeuti. Performances of music by Saint-Saens, J. W. Kalliwoda and Persichetti were just as fine.