Marcel Tabuteau’s Lessons: Recommended Recordings

MARCEL TABUTEAU’S LESSONS (formerly The Art of the Oboe on LP) (1965-66). Boston Records.

During the last months of his life, Marcel Tabuteau concerned himself with recording his musical ideas. In fact, the last installment for this ongoing project was recorded only the day before he died (January 4, 1966). The previous August, Wayne Rapier, then professor of oboe at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, presented Tabuteau with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and asked him to record his teaching concepts. Home tape-recording was then in its infancy and Tabuteau, fascinated with Rapier’s gift, jumped into this project with his characteristic intensity. The resulting tapes were edited and released on LP as The Art of the Oboe. Now re-released on CD, one can easily select a particular lesson and study it many times in order to more fully grasp Tabuteau’s often hard-to-digest concepts.

In this priceless document, Tabuteau methodically outlines his methods for musical thinking. Through his colorful speaking and playing, Tabuteau explains not only how to play a few orchestral excerpts but also goes into great detail concerning the proper way to execute intervals and long tones, as well as many other basic techniques. By listening to this historic recording, it is possible to get a limited sense of what it may have been like to study with him—although here, as many of his students have noted, he seems much more affable than in his days at Curtis!

Marcel Tabuteau’s Lessons is his last word to posterity. In these homemade recordings, Tabuteau’s imagination and ceaseless search for an ever-expanding range of expression, even in his last days, is inspiring.