The Oboe in the Band
As I mentioned in the subsection on the Oboe itself, the Oboe does not share well with others. That said, the English Horn is like a young girl who is in love with the whole world. She wants to be around everyone, and everyone is enlightened by her presence. It is odd how a simple difference in a fifth and a different shape to the bell changes the whole outlook of an instrument. The other lower oboes tend to fall along the lines of the English Horn.
I also mentioned in the subsection on the Oboe that there are generally only two Oboes in the band. This number does not include the English Hornist, who forms the third member of the ensemble. I personally would love to see the band’s oboe section expanded to include a fourth player on the Bass Oboe. What rich and wonderful combination can be had with such an ensemble!
Most professional Oboists own or have access to an English Horn. This means it is theoretically possible to have all members of the oboe section playing English Horn at once. Or what about a low quartet made of Oboe d’Amore, two English Horns, and a Bass Oboe?
Groups more than four can be attempted, but they are advised against. Oboists tend to clash with their own personalities. I have been in a room with a dozen or more oboists, and I wouldn’t wish that fate upon any! (By the way, only Bassoonists are allowed to say this about their soprano kindred. I’m sure they say equal things about us!)
Were I to have an expanded section, I would always expand the oboe family on the lower end. A full bodied section could be as such:
Player 1. Oboe
Player 2. Oboe
Player 3. Oboe d’Amore, Oboe
Player 4. English Horn, Oboe
Player 5. English Horn, Oboe
Player 6. Bass Oboe, Oboe
With a section like this, we can open up nearly every combination of oboes possible. All members can switch to Oboe if such a strident sound is needed. At the low end, we can have a full quartet of low oboes. I do not include the Piccolo Oboe here, only because it is so unknown to players, that its inclusion would be tenuous at best, but if one were available, then any of the Oboe players could potentially double on the instrument.
Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Piccolo Oboe (F), 10 Oboes, Oboe d’Amore, 2 English Horns, and Bass Oboe.