Oboes from the Baroque period are double-reed instruments that predate the modern oboe. They were first played between the years 1650 and 1750. The shawm was the primary double-reed instrument prior to the baroque period. The ancestor of the baroque oboe was this instrument, which was so loud that it could only be played outside. It was distinguished from the baroque oboe the absence of joints, the presence of a pirouette or resting place for the player’s lips, and the presence of a wind cap over the reed. Because these three elements were removed, the baroque oboe became a quieter instrument that could be played with other musicians indoors.
Oboes from the Baroque period originated in France in the mid-seventeenth century, where they were primarily used as court instruments. Over the next several decades, these instruments spread rapidly throughout Europe. By the early 18th century, the Italians had completely redefined the baroque oboe to make it more of a virtuosic instrument.
The baroque oboe differs significantly from its modern counterpart in several ways. The keywork, or lack thereof, is the first of these differences. On a baroque oboe, there are only three keys. Baroque oboes take on the appearance of modified recorders as a result of this. The modern oboe, on the other hand, has a complex “full conservatory” system that covers the top two joints almost entirely.
The size of the bore, or the internal chamber of the oboe through which wind passes as the player performs, is another difference between the baroque and modern oboes. The bores of baroque oboes are wider than those of modern oboes. This is one of the reasons why baroque oboes sound so different from their modern counterparts. Because of the bore width, a baroque oboe’s pitch can be up to a half tone lower than that of a modern oboe.
The size of the reed in any oboe is proportional to the bore size. Baroque oboe reeds are shorter and wider than modern oboe reeds in order to accommodate the larger bore in baroque oboes. They are, however, made in the same way as modern reeds.
A final distinction between modern and baroque oboes is the wood used in their construction. Boxwood was traditionally used to make baroque oboes. Modern oboes, on the other hand, are usually made of grenadilla wood. The sound of the instruments is also influenced the density differences between these woods.
Baroque oboes have a warmer, slightly diffused or cupped sound than modern oboes. This allows them to blend in well with other popular baroque instruments like viols and violin family members. The sound is still loud, with musicians, composers, and members of the baroque public frequently referring to the baroque oboe as the woodwind family’s trumpet.
Several baroque composers, most notably George Frederic Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, used the baroque oboe as a favorite instrument. Antonio Vivaldi, Tomaso Albinoni, and Arcangelo Corelli were among the composers who wrote for the instrument. Giuseppe Sammartini was arguably the most famous baroque oboist, sometimes referred to as “Handel’s oboist” because he played so many of Handel’s works for the instrument.
Oboists who specialize in baroque music do so on occasion. These oboists can play the modern oboe, but they prefer to play the baroque oboe to preserve the authenticity of baroque oboe music. The players frequently record baroque oboe solos, but they also perform with other instrumentalists such as violinists, flautists, and harpsichordists at baroque festivals and similar events.