Sonata - OB/PN
Composer: Coulthard, Jean
for oboe and piano
by Jean Coulthard (1908-2000) - Canadian composer and music educator
Dedicated to Evelyn Barbirolli
edited by Charles Hamann & Frédéric Lacroix
Jean Coulthard wrote her oboe sonata, her first for a wind instrument, in 1947, around the same time as her cello sonata and her first of two piano sonatas—this trio of solo pieces together represent some of the composer’s first important works. Dedicated to the renowned English oboist Lady Evelyn Barbirolli, it is a classic three-movement sonata and shows the Vancouver-born and Juilliard/European-trained Coulthard's emerging voice in the post-war years. That this is one of the earliest major Canadian works for oboe is notable in itself; even more remarkable is the fact that it was written by one of the three mid-century Canadian powerhouse women composers (the others being Barbara Pentland and Violet Archer).
This edition arose out of a recording project that pianist Frédéric Lacroix and I undertook in 2016 entitled “Canadian Works for Oboe and Piano”, a two-disc album for the Centrediscs label that included the Coulthard Sonata. Until now the only edition available was copied by hand and contained many inconsistencies, errors, and discrepancies from both the composer’s various sketches and early recorded performances. In some cases material was crossed out or otherwise unresolved. It seemed natural that a new edition should be made as part of the research that led to our performances and recording.
Thanks to the invaluable assistance of Coulthard scholar David Gordon Duke, who provided sketches from the University of British Columbia music library (where Coulthard was on the composition faculty for several decades), we were able to create a new performance edition that remains true to the composer’s style and original ideas for the piece and simultaneously reflects the modern accepted range and capabilities of the oboe. Throughout the piece, we strove to resolve ambiguities, make the work more idiomatic to the oboe, and address many inconsistent details in both piano and oboe parts. We also restored some of Coulthard’s original registrations and technical flourishes found in the sketches that we felt added artistic value at strategic moments of drama.
Frédéric and I are grateful to Mr. Duke for his assistance and endorsement of this edition of one of Canada’s most significant works for oboe and piano.
Charles Hamann May 2023