The oboe, a double-reed instrument of the woodwind family, appeared in France in the 17th century as an advance on a much older instrument, the shawm. The French name, “hautbois,” was also used in English until the late 18th century.
The oboe came into significance during the baroque era. Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, Tomaso Albinoni, and others wrote important solo and orchestral works for the instrument. Notable oboe makers of the period included the Germans Jacob Denner and Johann Heinrich Eichentopf, and the English father and son Thomas Stanesby Sr. and Jr.
The instrument has undergone numerous modifications through the years, and it has existed in several variations. In the 18th century, for example, the oboe d’amore was popular with many composers, including Bach, because it was deemed to have a beautifully serene tone.
The oboe, like other instruments, was further developed along standard lines as it came into the modern era. The movement in historically informed performance has revived interest in the oboe’s historical forms.