entrevista vicente moronta oboísta

Interview with Vicente Moronta, oboist of the month

Today we interview Vicente Moronta, an original oboist from Venezuela who for more than twelve years was a member of the “Simon Bolivar” Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Vicente is also a member of the Organizing Committee of “El Oboe y sus Laberintos” in Venezuela, a pedagogical, artistic and social project that fosters the country’s young talents and makes music accessible to people from different social backgrounds in the most important cities of Venezuela.

We want to get to know you better Vicente so we thank you for your time, here are our questions!

Interview with Vicente Moronta oboist

1. When exactly did you start playing the oboe?

My mother and father always had a very important link with culture. Since my childhood, my relationship with this medium was something intrinsic in my home. Therefore, from a very early age I was already participating in folkloric dance and music groups and in children’s choirs. Later I was enrolled in a music school named after a 19th century Venezuelan composer called “Federico Villena” and there I began my formal music studies. Theory and Solfeggio, Musical Dictation, Harmony, Music History and Piano were the first steps. Then it was time to choose an instrument. I confess that I always liked wind instruments. I did not know the oboe, but in a concert of the Chamber Orchestra of the University of Carabobo I met the oboe and there it was love at first sight. At the age of 10 I started with the reed and this beautiful instrument. I have no regrets!  

2. Why did you choose this instrument?

Without a doubt, the sound of the oboe is captivating. I also realized over time that it was an extremely difficult instrument with a lot of limitations. And I think that since I was a child I always liked great challenges. The oboe is a perennial, daily, immortal challenge. The first moment was a fortuitous and almost miraculous encounter with its extraordinary sound, and as time went by the oboe contributed to my formation as a human being a tenacity and a lineage that only oboists can know. The oboe has been a blessing in my life.

3. How much time do you dedicate daily to the oboe?

For me the oboe is not only an artifact, material or instrument. The oboe is an opportunity to express feelings, nonconformities, needs, desires, aspirations, dreams. But to do so, you have to master this kind of “wild horse”. The work of technique, the resolution of common and particular problems, is something fundamental that I work on daily. When I debate with my colleagues and share my knowledge with my students, I try to focus on the technical base, on the “material” with which we work. And I make a parenthesis in this “material” because we normally associate “material” with “reeds” and aspects inherent to these.

The reeds are vital for oboists. There is no doubt about that. However, the “material” is the mastery of this situation, the standardization in the resolution of the instrument’s own problems. On the technical side: it is about “how” and in “how much” time we solve these problems. Regarding the reeds: it is about getting a system that works for each of our needs in technical and physical terms, and also in the context of each repertoire. However, as time goes by, the mastery of the instrument and the ability to respond to limitations and technical obstacles become daily and the study becomes more effective and precise. In this sense, the floodgates open to deepen in time and space the approach to the oboe and its repertoire not only from the particular but from a more panoramic view. I invest a lot of time in repertoire research, in the search for new sonorities, in aesthetic tastes, in performance proposals. And now with the internet it is more comfortable and less cumbersome. Going to concerts and museums, or reading articles are also part of the daily study. In conclusion, the time dedicated to the oboe at the moment includes not only the practical study of the instrument but also research, creative leisure and teaching.

4. Is there an oboist or musician who especially inspires you?

Without demagoguery, I admire all oboists. This instrument is extremely complex and only we oboists know what it is all about. Just as only a mother can describe the sensation of giving birth, we oboists can characterize living with the oboe, what it is all about, what joys it brings us and what bitterness it imposes on us. Now, there have been and still are oboists who have inspired entire generations. If you ask me for names, I would tell you that my teachers have been very important in my formation of opinion and criteria as an oboist, musician and artist. From Enyu Peña who gave me the first reed and taught me how to hold the oboe and play the first notes, to Ricardo Riveiro who trained me for more than a decade at a higher level (he still continues to do so), up to professors Diethelm Jonas and Emanuel Abbühl who gave me an unprecedented consolidation in the technical and artistic aspects.

My orchestra and ensemble colleagues have also been very important in my training. Every time I play with an oboist by my side, I try to learn as much as possible from them. I confess that I learned how to assemble and scrape the reeds with fellow oboists, from those brothers that life (and also the oboe and music, it is worth saying) have miraculously offered me. To close, I have had the opportunity to play and work together with the one who for me is the main reference of what the oboe should be: Heinz Holliger. From there I cling, without dogmas, to improve more and more and to continue dreaming.

5. What feelings would you say the sound of the oboe transmits to you?

The oboe is associated with melancholy. The English horn is associated with the romantic. I believe that cinema and its soundtracks have built that subjectivity and that common imaginary. However, with the repertoire of the 20th and 21st century, the explorations with the oboe have made it a very versatile instrument, simulating from an electric guitar in the style of Jimmy Hendrix or Joe Satriani, through wind and atmospheric sounds, to always reach our pinnacle: radical lyricism. And if we add to this the participation of the oboes in renaissance and baroque music, we will find very beautiful and inspiring dances, marches and songs. In such a way, I do not think that the oboe subscribes to a specific sound field. Rather, it is a labyrinth full of entrances and exits, where sound becomes a subject that plays in that labyrinth.

6. What do you find most difficult about playing the oboe?

From our own experience, we try to compare ourselves with the development of other instrumentalists. Generally, we try (or they try) to self-criticize or judge us from the anachronistic comparison with clarinetists or flutists. But the oboe has had a slower evolution in organological terms. Besides the fact that the oboe has an extremely complex morphology: the oboe is conical and double reed (very narrow). This makes our instrument even more complex. However, I believe that we should not take refuge in these valid arguments for not taking the “bull” by the horns and solve the structural and general problems and those that each performer presents in a particular way.

For me the issue of air between notes, linking long phrases and moving between narrow or wide intervals is one of the challenges the instrument presents. Fortunately, in terms of tuning the oboe has better regulation and stability compared to other wind instruments. However, it is something that must be worked on daily, not to mention, that in related instruments such as the Love Oboe and the English Horn this issue is paradoxically more complex. Likewise, the reeds in the understanding that it is a process that goes from the selection of the material, the assembly and up to the scraping is an extremely complex process whose difficulty lies in the early configuration of a standard in terms of measures, processes, times and results. In these aspects I have found the most important knots to untangle in the life of oboists.

7. Have you experienced any curious anecdote related to your studies as an oboist?

I like to understand the oboe and everything related to it as a labyrinth, one that from its foundations is complexity made architecture. I also like to assume the oboe as a Pandora’s Box, one of those that are full of surprises, and of course, of challenges. I have many anecdotes, I have been walking along this path for some years now. But if you ask me, I would tell you that it was surprising once to be studying oboe in a classroom at the Musik Akademie Basel and that the greatest oboist of all time entered the room and stayed for a few minutes listening. I am referring to none other than Heinz Holliger. Of course, a gale of criticism was not long in coming. I took them with excitement, nervousness and motivation.

I was beginning to study a piece by Niccolò Castiglioni. It was a new world for me, and that chance encounter meant a before and an after. It was one of those turning points in my training as an oboist. Months later we coincided in several artistic projects. Whether as an audience or as a musician playing under his conduction, I always learn from his conception of art, his comments, his inspiration and tenacity when it comes to making music.

8. What is the most important thing for you in the oboe reeds?

Oboe reeds should help us to make easier an instrument that presents as many limits as the oboe (and also its related instruments such as the English Horn, the Oboe d’Amour, for example). Therefore, for me the reeds must be “fast”, that is to say, they must allow to send the air at different speeds without being obstructed, slowed down. The sound comes from our body, from our voice, from how we use the main musical instrument of mankind: the voice. However, there is no denying that the selection of the material, the standardization of a mounting and scraping system, the choice of the so-called “shapes”, the tudels and their respective measures, to mention some cardinal aspects of our reeds, are factors that will have a gigantic influence on how we will sound and how we will function when playing.

9. Can you tell us a little about “The Oboe and its Labyrinths”? We love the project!

The Oboe and its Labyrinths is a social, educational and artistic project that has its origins in early 2017. It began as a cycle of concerts in one of the most prestigious halls of our country: the “Jósé Félix Ribas” Hall of the “Teresa Carreño” Theater in the city of Caracas, capital of Venezuela. There we offered a couple of recitals of baroque and 20th century music. At the same time, we attended to more than a hundred girls, boys and young people of different ages, regions and levels who almost spontaneously came to Caracas to receive classes with those who participated in those recitals. Subsequently, from the excitement and positive impact we had, we decided to give continuity to this initiative, organizing ourselves, discussing methodological aspects and also artistic proposals in order to give continuity to this project. To date, in more than five years, we have attended and accompanied hundreds of girls, boys and young oboists, regardless of creed, political ideologies, social classes and gender, free of charge, by an extraordinary staff of international level facilitators. It has been more than five years of a tenacious struggle full of satisfaction and unprecedented achievements in the history of oboist training in Venezuela. From here my greetings to those who have collectively made this possible: Elodmar, Gonzalo, Johans, Ricardo and Sergio. Also to the teachers who are struggling day by day in Venezuela training these new generations: our deep respect and admiration. To the new generations of oboists: our perennial and unwavering support in their artistic and human formation.

The Oboe and its Labyrinths

10. Anything you would like to share with Medina Reeds readers?

I appreciate your invitation for this interview. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you to continue studying, growing, dreaming. Music is an art, and art is a vehicle for emancipation. So I propose to continue on this path of the oboe and music as an unstoppable evolution for human redemption.

Take note because this oboist has an account to follow. You will find him under the profile @vicentemoronta.

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