In 1936 Boughton had every reason to write an extended work for the oboe, for his daughter Joy (1913–1963) had begun to be acknowledged as an oboist of exceptional ability (it was for her that Britten was to write his Six Metamorphoses after Ovid
in 1951). Accordingly she gave the Concerto for oboe and strings its first performance on 6 May 1937 at a concert with the Boyd Neel String Orchestra in The Guildhall, Oxford. Later that year Boyd Neel took it to Salzburg as part of the programme (27 August) that included the first performance of Britten’s Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge
. Leon Goossens was the soloist on that occasion and Boyd Neel was able to report a ‘real triumph for the Concerto. Spontaneous applause after the slow movement … the whole concert went wonderfully’. He had written in similar terms after the Oxford premiere (‘Congratulations! It went simply splendidly and got more applause than any other item!’), and his enthusiasm was confirmed when Boosey & Hawkes accepted the work for publication. Boughton must have been relieved. His income for 1937 scarcely reached £100 and he could not afford to travel to Oxford for the first performance!
As with the Symphony, Boughton uses traditional forms and traditional materials. His manner of writing for the strings, however, explores a degree of intricacy that is a considerable challenge to the players, even if it may not be obvious to the ear. Despite the emphatic influence that folksong has over the thematic material, the solo part pulls no punches: it is virtuoso writing, manifestly designed for virtuoso performers, and as such has ensured that the Concerto has remained a work that major soloists have been glad to include in their repertoire.
from notes by Michael Hurd © 1999