If these hands each had a Loboe in them, they would agree that having a Low-A key greatly increases the consistency and ease of the Low-Bb pitch...
In the last post, I wrote about my anticipation for an upcoming Rihm rehearsal. Wolfgang Rihm's music, without fail, challenges every musician to their limits in terms of phrasing and sheer technique. While it is a frequent conclusion to jump to, contemporary composers frequently do know what they are doing, are aware of pitch ranges, and what notes are comfortable for an instrument to produce. I think they key idea here is that most composers are interested in what else a musician can do, and while a good one will attempt to write a passage in the easiest way for the performer, at the end of the day they might be asking for something that is just really hard to produce. To me, there is nothing more humbling than seeing something very, very difficult in an ensemble part and then listening to a recording of an oboist who just nails it.
Oboists are pushing the bar ever higher, don't let yourself get left behind!
All that being said, I noticed an increased sense of ease in producing the lowest notes in the oboe's register (again, Rihm has yet to write for extended rage oboe...yet). He asks for everything dynamically from ppp to FFF, to running triplet sixteenth notes at a presto tempo, all on Low-Bb. Having studied his oboe concerto years ago, (featuring an opening passage of multiple Low-Bb's at various dynamic levels) I was amazed at the difference the Loboe made.
Standard orchestral repertoire does not utilize the lowest oboe pitches in the same way that chamber music or solo works do. However, in a time where oboists have to wear multiple hats in order to survive, having an oboe that makes our inconsistent low range more stable is an incredible advantage no matter what type of music you find yourself playing.