Cristina Gómez Godoy

Rising Stars: Cristina Gómez Godoy

Mozart, Saint-Saëns and a world premiere: the Spanish oboist presents a soulful programme.

What an entrance to the classical world! In 2012 Daniel Barenboim brought the 21-year-old Cristina Gómez Godoy to his Staatskapelle Berlin, where she is still the oboe soloist, also sharing the concert platform with world-class orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic or with partners in chamber music such as Daniel Barenboim, Guy Braunstein and Claire Huangci.

Cristina Gómez Godoy makes her Elbphilharmonie debut with a programme containing several of the loveliest peces written for oboe, crowned by a brand-new work commissioned from British composer Charlotte Bray.

»Cristina Gómez Godoy plays with a marvellous warm and supple tone.«


Rising Stars Festival 2021

Hear tomorrow's stars perform today. Five concert streams available on demand.

Cristina Gómez Godoy
Cristina Gómez Godoy © Felix Broede

The Artist

  • Spanish oboist (b. 1990)
  • Solo oboist with the Staatskapelle Berlin
  • Has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras like the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Riccardo Muti and Zubin Mehta

Nominated by L’Auditori Barcelona and Palau de la Música Catalana

Palau de la Música Catalana Barcelona Palau de la Música Catalana Barcelona © Matteo Vecchi
L'Auditori Barcelona L'Auditori Barcelona © May Zircus


Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Sonata for Oboe and Piano in D Major, Op. 166

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Trio in E-flat Major, KV 498 »Kegelstatt Trio«

Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
from: Douze Préludes / Book 1

1. Danseuses de Delphes: Lent et Grave
2. Voiles: Modéré
3. Le vent dans la plaine: Animé

Robert Kahn (1865–1951)
Serenade, Op. 73

Charlotte Bray (*1982)
This Other Eden (World Premiere) / commissioned by L’Auditori Barcelona, Palau de la Música Catalana and the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO)

Backstage impressions

Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter
Mario Häring Mario Häring © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy, Sara Ferrández, Mario Häring Cristina Gómez Godoy, Sara Ferrández, Mario Häring © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter
Cristina Gómez Godoy Cristina Gómez Godoy © Sophie Wolter

Creating music and writing it down with Cristina Gómez Godoy :From the »The World of Instruments« digital series

What do we really need sheet music for? Cristina Gómez Godoy is a professional musician, and explains in this video what written or printed music is good for. You’ll also find out how to write music down yourself – and how the notes on the page can turn into completely new music.

»Born crazy« :About the oboe and this concert programme

»Anyone who learns to play the oboe must have born crazy«, Hansjörg Schellenberger once said. To put it a little more diplomatically than the former solo oboist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, one might say that the oboe is not an easy instrument. Nonetheless, musicians love it for its unique sound, which no other instrument comes close to. To quote French oboist François Leleux: »The sensuous sound of the oboe opens the door to the soul«. And no lesser figure than Richard Strauss loved its whims and contrasts so much that in his old age he dashed off an oboe concerto that is so tricky as to be almost unplayable; as he said: »The oboe can rasp, bleat and screech, it can sing and lament nobly and chastely, it can play like a happy child«. The music magazine Rondo sums up that the oboe is an instrument of extremes, perfectly suited to »boring into the depths of the soul«.

With his last ounce of strength :Camille Saint-Saëns: Sonata for Oboe

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) was aware of this, too, when he mustered his »last ounce of strength« at the end of his life and wrote a deep and intimate oboe sonata. An ambitious project of his old age was driving him: he had set himself the goal of writing a work for every woodwind instrument »in order to expand the repertoire of these generally neglected instruments«.

Parallel to the oboe, Saint-Saëns also wrote a sonata each for the clarinet and the bassoon in 1921. In form and character, all three pieces look back to the 18th century. While the composer incorporates a gavotte into the clarinet sonata, he closes the oboe sonata with a spicy gigue. »I used to be the future; in my early days people called me a revolutionary, and now, in old age, one can only be an ancestor«, he declared.

Portrait von Camille Saint-Saëns
Camille Saint-Saëns © Kunstverlag Lucien Mazenod

In the first movement, Saint-Saëns has the oboe sing in long melodic curves, making use of most of the instrument's tonal range. The second movement opens with free ornaments that lead into a pastorale, a kind of shepherd's dance with swaying dotted rhythms. Sad to say, Saint-Saëns was no longer able to complete his project and leave a sonata for every woodwind instrument: he died that same year.

»There is no other wind instrument that can play such long melodic curves«

Camillle Saint-Saëns am Klavier in der Pariser Salle Gaveau, 1913, ringsum sitzt das Orchester.
Camillle Saint-Saëns at the Parisian Salle Gaveau, 1913 © Agence Rol


Saint-Saëns wrote the long melodic curves deliberately: thanks to the narrow mouthpiece, the so-called double reed made from two wafer-thin halves of a piece of reed, an oboist needs to apply a lot of pressure, but not much air. Where some 470 millilitres per second flow through a trumpet when played, the oboe makes do with less than a third of the air – roughly 150 millilitres per second. There is no other wind instrument that can play such long melodic curves in a single breath. Watch Cristina Gómez Godoy and you'll see how long she can play without taking a breath.

Master of adaptation :Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: »Kegelstatt« Trio

Cristina Gómez Godoy makes her Elbphilharmonie debut in an unusual line-up: in a trio with Sara Ferrández on viola and Mario Häring at the piano, she plays the part normally taken by the violin in a classic piano trio. In addition, the viola also deviates from the standard trio line-up, substituting for its big brother, the cello. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the master of such adaptations. When he met to play music with friends like Joseph Haydn or the famous clarinettist Anton Stadler, he played the viola as a rule – thus inventing a new genre, the clarinet trio, for which Robert Schumann and Max Bruch were later to compose.

Mozart wrote many of his works for leading instrumentalists of his day. In the case of the »Kegelstatt« Trio, first performed in 1786, it was the aforementioned Anton Stadler (1753–1812), Mozart's fellow Freemason and one of the best clarinettists at the time, who inspired Mozart to write the piece. The two friends cultivated a jocular familiarity, and to this day no-one knows the meaning of the nicknames »Punkitititi« and »Notschibikitschibi« that they gave each other. We do know that »Ribislgesicht« (redcurrant face), another name Mozart used when addressing his friend, came from the bright red face that Stadler got when playing. It fits into the picture that Mozart is said to have written the »Kegelstatt« Trio during a light-heated game of skittles (the name means bowling alley in German). In the version heard here, the clarinet is replaced by the oboe, of course.

The arrangement of the individual sections is unusual: instead of the usual fast movement, Mozart starts with an enchanting andante, where the musicians lob the ball to and fro, always revolving around the playful theme. In the simple minuet that follows, the blissful major mood abruptly changes into melancholy. And in the course of the closing rondo, the violin, the piano and the oboe each gets its turn in the limelight with a solo passage.

»The sensuous sound of the oboe opens the door to the soul.«

François Leleux

A prelude goes its own way :Claude Debussy: Préludes

It's hard work playing the oboe – according to oboist François Leleux it's »as if one were blowing up a whole series of really stubborn balloons for a children's birthday party«. Thus Cristina Gómez Godoy takes a short breather while her colleague Mario Häring dabs a selection of Debussy's »Douze Préludes« on to the piano keys.

With his »Préludes«, Debussy, who was born in 1862, was taking up a genre rich in history: harpsichord masters like Jean-Philippe Rameau and Johann Sebastian Bach had already written their own preludes in the Baroque era. The French composer penned freer introductory pieces of a poetic character, whereas Bach generally prefaced each prelude with a fugue. With the passing of time, the form became independent, culminating in Chopin's 24 Préludes, each of which is a work in its own right. At the beginning of the 20th century, Debussy picked up the trail: the twelve pieces that make up the first of his two books of preludes were written in less than three months in the winter of 1909/10, and each stands alone. They display freedom of form, sounding almost improvised: a nod in the direction of the composer's French predecessors.

Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy © Félix Nadar

Incidentally, Debussy played the piano himself – here is a recording of him playing his own Préludes.

Debussy attached a poetic footnote to each piece: phrases such as »Sails«, »The sunken cathedral« or »Footprints in the snow« appear in the score – but at the end, in order not to impose any interpretation on the listener. Mario Häring has selected the first three preludes for this concert. »Dancers from Delphi« is taken from an antique Greek column that depicts them. »Voiles« (in English: veils or sails) is marked by whole-tone scales that European ears are unaccustomed to. And »Le vent dans la plaine« makes the wind blow across the plains with shimmering figurations.

Serenade from earlier times :Robert Kahn: Serenade op. 73

Robert Kahn is probably known to only a very few classical music lovers today. The Mannheim native died as late as 1951, it's true; but his music is deeply rooted in the 19th century. Kahn felt that he belonged to the Romantic era, musically speaking, and in particular to the Brahms circle, although he refused to be classified a »Romantic«. It was the famous Hamburg composer Brahms who put the younger Kahn in touch with a publisher, and Kahn regularly met the other members of Brahms's circle of friends to play music together. The Serenade of 1923 likewise speaks the language of the previous century: the light serenade genre itself was already obsolete in Kahn's own lifetime. But he nonetheless endowed his Serenade for Oboe, Horn and Piano with some unusual features: among these was the fact that the piece is not divided into five or more movements, but is played without a break. Then unexpected changes of key and tempo also contribute variety. The version heard here with an oboe, incidentally, is only one of nine possible combinations that Kahn supplied to his publisher.

Der Komponist Robert Kahn, Portraitfoto schwarz-weiß.
Robert Kahn © Steffen Fahl

A response to Brexit :Charlotte Bray: This Other Eden

Portrait der Komponistin Charlotte Bray
Charlotte Bray © C. R. Dawkes

The highlight of every concert at the »Rising Stars« festival is a new work, specially written for the artist concerned. For Cristina Gómez Godoy's concert, the work was written by British composer Charlotte Bray, who – like the dedicatee – has been living in Berlin for nearly ten years. She has written work for such distinguished orchestras as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, for viola player Tabea Zimmermann and for the pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

Charlotte Bray's music is often lively and highly emotional in character. It takes inspiration from personal encounters, from poems and natural or political events, and that applies to »This Other Eden«. The piece was written, the composer says, early in 2020 as the final deadline for Great Britain to leave the EU got closer. »It's a very direct response to Brexit. I feel sure that we will all be struggling with the consequences for years to come.«

»This piece is a very direct response to Brexit.«

Charlotte Bray

The music deals with this conflict: It opens with the piano and the oboe playing in unison, »dark and defiant«. Their striking, splayed notes simulate a peal of bells. Mario Häring has to keep the piano pedal pressed down for almost the entirety of the first movement, in order to produce floating sounds that dissolve as if into a cloudy puddle. Bray says that these stand for the fear hidden behind what people supposed to be a protective wall. Soon enough, the oboe climbs to the highest notes, but then falls even further, covering the instrument's entire range.

The second movement is fleeting, almost fragile in texture. »I want to show freedom to the audience. Have they been given their freedom, or has it been taken away from them?« In the third movement, resignation and discord spread. Bray calls this section »Conflict of a nation«. The piano and the oboe go their separate ways, and the music seems to hover in the air, until a shrill scream from the oboe brings it to a standstill.

Text: Laura Etspüler, last updated: 25 Jan 2021
Translation: Clive Williams

The concert was recorded on 22 January 2021.


Promoter: HamburgMusik

In cooperation with ECHO - European Concert Hall Organisation

With support by M.M.Warburg & CO.

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