When I was commissioned by the Wigmore Hall and the Radcliffe Trust to write a work for the Britten Sinfonia I decided to go beyond the two oboe quartets I had written previously by composing an oboe octet – not, as some to whom I mentioned it supposed, for eight oboes (!), but for oboe quartet (oboe and string trio) and string quartet. They are used almost throughout as two separately defined groups, with their own music (which is however often exchanged between the two), only rarely joining together in the same music as an octet. The four movements, of which the first is by some way the longest, play without a break; the second movement is for oboe quartet alone. But this formal organisation is only the background of the piece, whose melodic writing for oboe is the dominant feature. Postludes is dedicated ‘in loving memory’ to Oliver Knussen, who died while I was in the middle of the composition. My earlier quartets had been strongly influenced by his oboe quartet Cantata, the work that he was writing when I first met him in 1976.
First performance at the Wigmore Hall by the Britten Sinfonia, with Nicholas Daniel on the oboe, in February 2019.