DB: Tabuteau uses hand vibrato in the extreme high register of the oboe and also when playing softly.
JD: Well, vibrato was something, which was a very personal thing, which he never taught. He, at least in my case, the couple of times that I got up enough nerve to ask him something (because most of us were always afraid to even ask questions) he just said, “Well, don’t worry about it, it will take care of itself.” In my case, I feel fortunate in that it did take care of itself. He said, ”Just keep on playing long tones, and it will happen,” and sure enough it did happen. But, I have found in my thirty years of teaching that it doesn’t always work out that way with some students, and I would say that there are some of his students that could be pointed out as examples of where it didn’t work also. He never made, very rarely ever made a reference to it, except that he didn’t like a lot of it. Anybody who would try to use a great deal of it, he would say, “Forget it.”
LVB: In your own mind, how did vibrato fit in –
JMk: Vibrato was an undiscussed topic. It was made a joke of sometimes. I remember as a youngster asking him something about it and immediately getting some cock-and-bull story about “You relax the lips and the reed vibrates and makes vibrato” [imitating Tabuteau’s accent]. He would say anything whatsoever, and it was one of those things; that was a subject that was up to you to come up with your own solution. It’s one of those mystical things with the oboe since it’s an internal thing, not external like a string player. String Players just go ahead and study and learn to do that. It’s no more given any thought of; no one is going to sit around on the violin and wait for something to happen as if by magic, by nature. Although this is greatly espoused on the oboe that that’s what one should do, I take a rather jaundice view of the whole business. I’d rather not go into it too much, but as far as Tabuteau’s concerned to say that he didn’t. I remember when he had seized upon a high note and the room was throbbing at full intensity, and he fixed on me with rolling eyes that reminded me of frightened young calf or something, being sure that he had my attention, he pulled the oboe out of his mouth and in mock something or other said, “Well, Mack, there is your vibrato!” [Imitating Tabuteau’s accent.] Something like that, sort of trying to make a joke out of it. Was he concerned about it himself? Of course, he certainly was like every other artist, deeply and completely concerned, but he felt, and I agree with him, that there is something rather private about it. I think that in a way vibrato is almost a reflection of a person’s psyche or the condition there-of. I think most people would be forced to admit that. He tried to avoid physical things.