Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Oboe basso


Term formerly used for the oboe grande, a mezzo-soprano oboe in A or B with an open bell; see Oboe, §III, 3(i).

Oboe da caccia


A curved, leather-covered tenor oboe with a flaring bell, in use from about 1720 to about 1760; see Oboe, §III, 4(iii).

Oboe d’amore [oboe luongo]


A mezzo-soprano oboe in A with a bulb bell; see Oboe, §III, 3(ii).

Oboe grande


A mezzo-soprano oboe in A or B with an open bell; see Oboe, §III, 3(i).



See Lute stop.

Oborin, Lev (Nikolayevich)

(b Moscow, 28 Aug/11 Sept 1907; d Moscow, 5 Jan 1974). Russian pianist and teacher. He studied with Yelena Gnesina until 1921 and then graduated from Igumnov's piano class at the Moscow Conservatory in 1926, having also studied composition with Myaskovsky, Konyus and Catoire. In 1927, aged 19, and whilst still a postgraduate pupil of Igumnov, he won first prize at the inaugural Chopin Competition in Warsaw. His playing was noted for its maturity and lack of idiosyncrasy. Oborin began teaching piano at the conservatory in 1928, and seven years later was appointed professor, a post he held for nearly 40 years. The celebrated duo partnership with the violinist David Oistrakh dated from 1943 and during the same period they formed a trio, with Knushevitsky as cellist. The three played together until the latter's death in 1963.

Oborin, like Igumnov, was a staunch advocate of Russian music, particularly Tchaikovsky's, though his recordings of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with Oistrakh have won universal acclaim. Impeccable in technique, his very balanced style was essentially modern. He held the strong belief that an artist should concern himself with contemporary music, and consequently he gave many first performances, including the Khachaturian Piano Concerto, which he recorded with the composer. A popular and successful teacher, Oborin's catholic approach to the repertory is mirrored in that of his pupils, the most famous of whom is Vladimir Ashkenazy.


S. Khentova: Lev Oborin (Moscow, 1964)

G.B. Bernandt and I.M. Yampol'sky: Kto pisal o muzïke [Writers on music], ii (Moscow, 1974) [incl. list of writings]

M. Sokolov: L.V. Oborin: stati, vospominaniya [L.V. Oborin: articles and recollections] (Moscow, 1977)


Obouhow, Nicolas [Obukhov, Nikolay]

(b Ol'shanka, Kursk province, 10/22 April 1892; d St Cloud, nr Paris, 13 June 1954). Russian composer. He studied for a while at the Moscow Conservatory from 1911 (counterpoint with Il'insky and the piano with Strakhov) before entering the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1913, where he studied with Kalafati, Maksimilian Steinberg and Nikolay Tcherepnin. His first acknowledged works date from 1913: these include the songs published as Quatre mélodies by Rouart et Lerolle in Paris in 1921. In 1915 he developed his own form of notation in which the need for accidentals is obviated by the use of noteheads in the shape of crosses; this system, similar to that invented by Golïshev during the same period, was used by Obouhow in all of his works written after the middle of 1915 and gave rise to a great deal of journalistic polemic. The only performance his works received in Russia during his lifetime took place at an evening sponsored by the journal Muzïkal'nïy Sovremennik in 1916. Boris de Schloezer, a close friend of Skryabin's who later knew Obouhow in Paris, was present at the concert and described the composer as ‘a pale young man, with gazing eyes’ who ‘confused the audience’ (de Schloezer, 1972).

In 1918 Obouhow left St Petersburg with his wife and two children; they eventually settled near Paris a year later. There he encountered financial difficulties which were only alleviated by the intervention of Ravel, who found him a publisher (who in the end printed only a small number of his works) and introduced him to people who gave him ‘the possibility to devote himself to his work in peace’ (de Schloezer). The 1920s saw a handful of performances, most notably that of the Predisloviye knigi zhizni (‘Introduction to the Book of Life’) under Koussevitzsky. During this and the next decade Obouhow put into practice ideas for electronic instruments he had conceived as early as 1917: the efir and kristal (‘ether’ and ‘crystal’) he had described in Russia eventually gave rise to the croix sonore, and even though he built and wrote for the ether, it was with the croix sonore that he gained most attention. He found an exponent of the instrument in his pupil Marie-Antoinette Aussenac-Broglie who had also performed some of his piano music; she demonstrated the instrument around France and Belgium. Similar to both the theremin and the ondes martenot in that pitch production is reliant upon the distance of the performer's arm from the instrument, the croix sonore was the subject of a film of 1934. During the mid-1940s his notation again provoked heated discussion, this time in Paris; a book containing works from the 18th to the 20th centuries in Obouhow's notation was published by Durand. In 1947, his Traité d'harmonie tonale, atonale et totale, which had already interested Honegger, was published, while a year later he lectured on this subject in the Russian Conservatory in Paris. Obouhow spent his last years incapacitated by a mugging that occurred in 1949, after which he composed only a few works.

Obouhow's output is dominated by vast works of which the most notorious – notwithstanding the gargantuan Troisième et dernier testament and La toute puissance – is the Kniga zhizni (‘The Book of Life’) on which he worked from around the time he left Russia until at least the mid-1920s. Described by the composer as ‘l'action sacrée du pasteur tout-puissant regnant’ it was intended to be performed (or ‘accomplished’) uninterruptedly every year on the night of the first and on the day of the second resurrection of Christ. Obouhow did not consider himself the composer of this work; instead, he saw himself as the person permitted, by divine forces, to ‘show’ it. Parts of the score, one version of which is nearly 2000 pages in length, are marked in the composer's blood. The music is preceded by a lengthy exposition in archaic Russian, while the work concludes with one section the score of which unfolds into the form of a cross and another, taking the shape of a circle, which is fixed onto a golden and silver box decorated with rubies and red silk. (Nicholas Slonimsky, in his memoir Perfect Pitch relates that the composer's wife, driven to despair by Obouhow's obsessive behaviour regarding this piece, attempted to burn – or ‘immolate’, in the composer's terminology – the manuscript but was interrupted in her crime.) Much of the instrumental writing is characterized by the alternation of chorale-like material (often ornamented by filigree arpeggiation) with tolling patterns, building to textures of considerable rhythmic and contrapuntal complexity. The vocal parts – as with his writing for the voice in most of his other works – have huge tessituras and are scattered with glissandi and instructions for screaming or whispering. The style which consistently characterizes this magnum opus is prevalent in all of his mature works and has its roots in the songs and piano miniatures he wrote in Russia. Taking as a starting point the language employed by Skryabin in his middle and late-period works, Obouhow evolved a harmonic technique based on the systematic configuration and manipulation of 12-note chords or harmonic areas. The sonorities resulting from this ‘total harmony’ are often broadly octatonic and frequently have a quasi-dominant character due to the prevalence of diminished fifths in their lower registers. Although longer structures appear to unfold in a schematized yet organic manner, the detail of musical procedure is curiously static. Obouhow saw his work as a musical articulation of his strongly-held religious beliefs and would sometimes sign his manuscripts ‘Nicolas l'illuminé’ or ‘Nicolas l'extasié’. Possibly inspired by Vladimir Solov'yov's idea of sobornost' (collective spiritual or artistic experience), Obouhow sought to abolish the distinction between performers and audience, giving both groups instead the status of equal participants. Obouhow mostly used his own texts which are frequently inspired by the book of Revelation or the Apocrypha. It is thus no coincidence that the only poets whose work appealed to him spiritually and compositionally were Solov'yov and Bal'mont, since it was the former's orthodox mysticism that significantly informed the apocalyptic vision of the latter. In addition to these sources, mention should be made of Obouhow's use of two verses by Musorgsky; it is between his work and that of Messiaen that Obouhow's visionary language can be placed.


texts by the composer unless otherwise stated


With orch: Kniga Zhizni/Le livre de la vie, solo vv, 2 pf, elec insts, orch, 1918–mid 1920s, also red. solo vv, 2 pf: Chemin, Préinduction, Induction, Liturgie, Extase, Avènement, La source et la calice; Izstupleniye, poem, chorus, orch, before 1924, also red. pf; Predisloviye knigi zhizni [Introduction to the Book of Life] (K. Bal'mont, N. Obouhow), female v, male v, orch, ?1925, also arr. 2 solo vv, pf 4 hands with material from Nichego ne zhdi [see vocal (1v, pf)]; Prezhde vsego lyubov' yest' voda zhizni [Above All Love is the Water of Life], S, pf, orch, 1927; L'énonciation du jugement dernier, 3rd version [see vocal (with 2–5 insts)], solo female vv, chorus, ether, orch, early 1930s, ?inc.; La toute-puissance (Le miracle s'impose, deuxième étude), chorus, 3 pf, org, orch, mid-1930s, also version for female solo vv, male chorus, 2 pf; Le troisième et dernier testament (Victoire par l'amour: l'avant propos du Livre de la vie), 5 solo vv, 2 pf, croix sonore, org, orch, 1946, also versions for (5 solo vv, 2 pf, bells)/(4 solo vv, pf) with 2–5 insts: Le Pasteur tout puissant règne, female v, miracle, pf, 1930: Ton royaume du ciel est sur la terre, Ton nom est sanctifiée; L'énonciation du jugement dernier: La confession; La communion, female v, other solo vv, croix sonore, ether, pf 4 hands, early 1930s, rev. with chorus in 7 final bars [incl. movt Vous me voyez]; Chant des sphères, 4vv, croix sonore, pf, 1934 [incid music for radio play by C. Larronde]; Hymne mondiale, female v, croix sonore, pf 4 hands, mid-1930s, rev. for female v, chorus, croix sonore, org, orch; Le tout puissant bénit la paix, female v, croix sonore/vc, pf, mid-1930s, also version without female v; Pour le salut du monde un seul roi, female v, croix sonore, pf, mid-1930s, Troisième étude rev. in 7 movts as La toute puissance, also version for female v, chorus, croix sonore, 2 pf/pf 4 hands; Salut et victoire par la paix, male v, ether, pf, before 1934; Pour le tabernacle, pour le marriage: 1, L'agneau est immolé, 2, Vous êtes les feuilles, les fruits d'un arbre seul, female v, croix sonore/vc, pf, ?1935; L'agneau et le pasteur, croix sonore/vn, female v, pf, 1948, also version without female v; Immortel espoir – l'union avec Dieu, female v, croix sonore/vc, pf, ?1948; Eternal souvenir (Tous sauvées par l'Agneau immolé), croix sonore/vc, female v, pf 4 hands, after 1948, 3 versions

1v, pf: Bayushki bayu (Bal'mont), 1913, also orchd; Kolïbel'naya [Berceuse] (Bal'mont), 1913; Kolïbel'naya Blazhennago – u uzgoloviya myortvoy (Bal'mont), poème liturgique, ?1913 (1921); Na vershine gornoy (Bal'mont), op.1, 1913, also orchd; 2 stikhotvoreniya (Bal'mont), 1913 (1921), also orchd: Ya budu zhdat' tebya [I will Await Thee], Nichego ne zhdi [Await No-One]; 3 stikhi [3 Verses] (Bal'mont, V. Solov'yov), 1914; V molchan'i zabïvsheysya nochi [In the Silence of Forgotten Nights] (Bal'mont), 1915; Chanson tsigane d'après la mélodie de S. Steinmann (M. Musorgsky), ?1918, rev. as Chanson d'après une mélodie tsigane, rev. again as Variations d'après une mélodie tsigane; Pastïr nashe utesheniye, 1918 (1921); Liturgicheskaya poema/Poème liturgique, 1918 (nos.1 and 2 pubd 1921): Agnets nashe ugrïzeniye [The Lamb is Our Salvation], Pastïr nash ugrïzeniya [The Shepherd is Our Conscience], Zvezdolikiy [The Starry-Faced-One] (Bal'mont), Zvezdolikiy rev. for female v, 2 male vv, female chorus, pf, rev. again for same forces with ether, cristal; Lyubov' yest' voda zhizni [Love is the Water of Life] (Musorgsky, Obouhow); Prezhde vsego lyubov' yest' voda zhizni [Above All Love is the Water of Life], S, pf 4 hands/2 pf, 1927, also orchd


Chbr: Bog zhivoy [God is Alive], vn, pf, 1915; La couronne universelle et victorieuse, croix sonore, pf, before 1930; L'absolu, ondes martenot, pf 4 hands, version for ether, pf 4 hands, also orchd; Par la peine de la tristesse surgit le ravissement de la joie, ondes martenot, pf, early 1930s; Pouvoir majique de la Trinité triomphante, croix sonore, pf, early 1930s; Nous sommes ton corps collectif, Tu es notre sang uni (Le tout puissant), ether, pf, ?1932 [to be perf. with Pour le tabernacle and Réconcilions nous]; Réconcilions nous, ether, pf, 1932, rev. for croix sonore/vn, pf, 1947, also inc. version with female v and further version with male v, incl. En quoi il est fautif; La tout puissant est dans la justice pour l'amour, pour l'avènement du roi du monde (Le miracle s'impose, étude no.1), croix sonore, pf, mid-1930s; Le tout puissant bénit la paix, croix sonore, pf, mid-1930s, also version with female v; Pour tous: amour propreté, ordre, travail: unic chemin de bonheur, ether, pf, 1933; Hymne des vivants: notre salut est en lui, croix sonore, pf, before 1934; Les quatre pâles divins, croix sonore, pf, before 1934, 3 versions of 2nd movt; Pour le salut du monde un seul roi (Le miracle s'impose), croix sonore, pf 4 hands, before 1937, also version with chorus; Le roi du monde viendra et vous sauvera par l'amour, croix sonore, late 1930s [possibly frag. of lost work]

Pf: 6 préludes, 1914–15; Conversion, 1915: Crime, Remords, Larmes de sang, Inspiration sublime; Eternel, 5 movts, 1915: Clarté profonde, Lumière noire, Rayons divins, Statue, Cendres; Ikona [Icons], 1915: Sozertsaniye [Contemplation], Skorb [Grief], Upokoyeniye [Repose]; 2 pièces, 1915: Les astres parlent, Reflet sinistre; Prières, 1915; Révelation, 3 pieces, 1915; 6 tableaux psychologiques, 1915; 10 tableaux psychologiques, 1915; Création d'or, 2 pieces, 1916; Invocations I–II, 1916; Prichta Gospodnya: vïshyol seyatel' seyat' [A Parable of the Lord: The Sower Went Out to Sow], 1917; Raspyatiye – Blazhenstva (Crucification de la Béatitude), 1917; Tsel' svyashchyonno – dveystviya votsarivshagosya pastïra vsederzhatelya (Le but de l'action sacrée du pasteur tout-puissant), 2 pf, 1v opt., mid-1920s; La source de la vie c'est la paix, before 1931; Intronisation, 2 pf/pf 4 hands, 1931, also arr. solo vv, chorus, orch; Hostie, before 1933; Couronnement, 2 pf/pf 4 hands, before 1934 [to be played with Intronisation]; La toute puissance, 2 pf/pf 4 hands mid-1930s, also versions for 2 solo vv, chorus, croix sonore, pf 4 hands (movts 1–4), for same forces with org, orch and for this ens with 3 pf; Aimons-nous les uns les autres, fragment du Livre de la vie, 1942 (1943), also extended version of section entitled L'heure est proche, réveillons-nous; Adorons Christ, fragment du troisième et dernier testament, 1945, 5 versions; La paix des reconciliés: vers la source avec la calice (1948); Le temple est mesuré, l'esprit est incarné, 1952 (1953)

Other: Douze gammes [explaining Obouhow's theory of total harmony], 3 versions


MSS in F-Pn

Principal publisher: Durand


I. Glebov [B. Asaf'yev]: ‘Petrogradskiye kurantï’ [Petrograd trends], Muzïka, mccxlix (1916), 167

V. Belyayev: ‘Mekanika ili logika’, K novïm beregam, xii (1923), 25–7

B. de Schloezer: ‘Le livre de la vie’, ReM, viii (1928), 263–5

A. Honegger: ‘Preface au “Traité d'harmonie tonale, atonale et totale”’, ReM, no.203 (1946), 15–16

ReM, nos.290–91 (1972) [Obouhow and Vïshnegradsky issue, incl. articles by R. Petit, B. de Schloezer, N. Obouhow and E. Lebeau]

P.D. Roberts: Modernism in Russian Piano Music: Skriabin, Prokofiev and their Contemporaries (Bloomington, IN, 1993)

L. Sitsky: Music of the Repressed Russian Avant Garde (Westport, CT, 1994)

Ye. Pol'dayeva: ‘Nikolay Obukhov: biograficheskiye nabroski’ [Biographical sketches], Muzïka: issledovatel'skiy sbornik '94 (Moscow, 1995), 137–165


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