One doesn’t know the real definition of impressive until they’ve witnessed Aaron Hill playing the oboe.
On Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m., Hill played a recital of classic arrangements on the oboe in the Harlan O. and Barbara Hall Recital Hall located in the University of Nevada, Reno’s University Arts Building. The arrangements were ones he had worked on during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. He was accompanied on stage by graduate student Alexandra Gordon, on the oboe and alumnus Tristan Selzler, on the piano.
Right at the start of the event, Hill performed a solo arrangement of “Partita for Violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004” originally by Johann Sebastian Bach. He performed the nearly-impossible challenge of playing the four movements, “Allemande”, “Courante”, “Sarabande” and “Gigue” on the oboe. He was quite successful with his beautiful production, using extreme diligence to pause as little as possible in between movements.
Hill plays the whole collection of movements on his album “Solitary Discourse”, which can be found on Amazon Music.
After a short pause, Hill comes back on stage with Alexandra Gordon to play “Sonata No. 1 for Two Flutes in G major, TWV 40:101” originally by George Philipp Telemann. They collaborated gracefully, staying in sync through the four movements, “Soave”, “Allegro”, “Andante” and “Allegro.”
The two oboe players had matching harmonies throughout the arrangement. However, there were some parts where one would fall out of beat and the loss of good momentum would occur, but the musicians picked it up rather quickly and their slip-ups were barely noticeable to the audience.
After these sets were complete, there was a short intermission before Hill resumed the recital with two more solos.
Before his performance of “Canto notturno di un pastore errante dell’Asia”, Hill read a short clip of the poem, written by Giacomo Leopardi. He read the English translation of the poem, since it was originally written in Italian. The music for the professor’s solo was composed by Sebastian Birch in 2021. The piece felt a bit chaotic and emotional with constant shifts in pitches, ending with a sad, lonely-feeling harmony.
Hill then played a short composition called “Raindroplets” by William Jae, a composer who is only nineteen years old. The 2020 piece was the most unique of all of the pieces. He even warned the audience before playing that air sounds and multiphonics on the oboe would be a common occurrence with this piece, but they were “on purpose.” At the start, the air sounds were quiet and had a great resemblance to the sounds of rain droplets landing. Then the piece started, treating the audience to appealing harmonies, with high volume pitches to keep everyone reeled in. The multiphonics sound a little unnatural, but somehow fit just right into the piece.
Then Jeremiah Evans’ original composition of “A Little Shimmy” was performed by Hill. The music had the sassiest feel of all of the pieces. It was a short piece but one that had its own attitude, energy and personality written in between the lines.
Then the accompanying pianist, Selzler, took the stage with Hill to collaborate on the piece “Transformation in Time of COVID, Mvt. II; G minor” which was composed by Selzler in 2021. The song featured an excellent dialogue between the piano and the oboe. The two musicians matched tempo and were at a good range of tune so that they did not overlap one another in volume. There was even a section when Selzler performed a solo part of the piece, which was an inviting listen.
The overall attitude of the song was a sad, soft one which does a great job of summarizing the feelings and thoughts about COVID memories. There were also some chaotic and dramatic notes played in the midst of the piece, so the inclusion of those was a well-incorporated one which clearly represented the highs and lows of the pandemic.
Before their last arrangement, the three musicians all came back out together to do a bit of improvisation. Improvisation can be hard for some players, yet these three impressively read each other’s cues and emotions.There was no overlap, no eruptive volume and the collaboration was impressive overall.
For their big finish, the three collaborators played “Nature Boy”, composed by Eden Ahbez and arranged by Hill. The combination of two oboes and a jazz piano gave the feel of dancing the tango. It had a sexy appeal that had an upbeat tone and sounded very contemporary and modern. This song was just the right touch and a great way to finish off the concert to leave the audience satisfied.
Overall, the three performers did an exquisite job with their arrangements and had many impressive moments to keep the audience attuned to their elegant pieces.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.