I’m just back from 3 days spent with the Berlin Oboe Quartet recording and performing both of my oboe quartets in the Bremen Sendesaal. The Quartet has magically reformed itself after more than 20 years: in the late 1980s they came together as players from the Berlin Philharmonic, and I met them when they played my first Oboe Quartet in London in 1988. I was so knocked out by the performance that I promised to write a second Oboe Quartet for them, which they first played in 1990. This project was one that Nigel Shore had been working towards for a long time, based around his own label, Costa Records. It was wonderful to hear these players come together again in the stunning acoustics of the Sendesaal, with the Berlin Philharmonic’s Tonmeister, Christoph Franke, supervising the recording. The concert included all the works which will be on the CD – in addition to my two quartets, Britten’s Phantasy, and Helen Grime’s and Richard Rodney Bennett’s Oboe Quartets.
The Sendesaal has a remarkable history. It was built in the 1950s as the studio for Radio Bremen until the station relocated and the site was sold in 2006. The hall came very near to being demolished, but it was finally acquired by an act of philanthropy and given protected status in 2008, reopening as a concert hall in March 2009 and run by a charitable trust. It can take an audience of around 250, and is particularly renowned for an acoustic which was designed to be exactly the same when full as empty, so that editing between sessions and performance is completely practical. It has to be heard to be believed!