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In the two years since Rosalind Buda (pronounced as in “beauty”) settled in our midst, we have discovered that she is interested in forms as diverse as early music, the classics and Appalachian folk music. Audiences have been consistently pleased with her performances both on bassoon and on Scottish smallpipes. More than forty people turned out for her Sunday appearance at the Altamont Theatre sponsored by Pan Harmonia.
This eclectic concert included six sets. First and last were pieces for bassoon and piano by lesser-known classical composers. The second and fifth were by well-known masters. The third and fourth were arrangements of early music and folk tunes, and incorporated the smallpipes.
Eugène Bozza is best known outside of France for chamber works for winds, written in an elegant style. His “Récit, Sicilienne et Rondo” for bassoon and piano provides a compendium of everything expected of a top quality bassoonist: athletic leaps, sixteenth-note passages and sumptuous lyricism. As the Rondo is concluding, the composer has even included a brief quotation from “La Marseillaise,” underscoring the fact that this was written to be a Paris Conservatory test piece. Buda easily passed the test.
Pianist Vance Reese collaborated on the Bozza, and played a piano reduction of the orchestral score during the next work, Edward Elgar’s “Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra,” Opus 62. This work dates from before the Great War 1914-18, the same time as Elgar’s two symphonies and violin concerto. (The “Enigma” Variations were written much earlier and the tumultuous cello concerto came after the war.) I consider Elgar to be under-appreciated, too seldom programmed by American orchestras, and welcomed the opportunity to hear this work. Reese managed well the orchestral swells that underscored climactic moments. Buda’s long slender fingers caressed the keys as she demonstrated Elgar’s intelligent writing of a serious piece for bassoon and orchestra.
EJ Jones took the stage with Buda for two early eighteenth-century dances (by Jean-Baptiste Anet and J. Bodin de Boismortier) arranged by Nick Blanton for bassoon and bagpipes. The Boismortier “Gigue” was especially pleasing with its imitative canon passages. After a brief intermission, Jones and Buda both took up Scottish smallpipes and began a set of tunes, beginning with “Pretty Saro,” an Appalachian tune made familiar by the movie Songcatcher. The group ended with an Appalachian variant of “Greensleeves” (or perhaps “I Saw Three Ships”) that included an up-tempo riff and a passage where the two pipers overlapped, playing in the two tempos simultaneously. Great stuff, showing the intricacy and sophistication that may be found in Appalachian folk music.
The second and third movements from Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat major for Bassoon & Violoncello, K. 292, were next, with Vance Reese performing the second part on string bass rather than cello. While the musicians were setting up and tuning, someone quipped that Reese was not just a pretty face, but rather a pretty bass, and he was. In the Rondo, especially, that second part includes a lot of musical complexity. It is far more than just a continuo.
William Hurlstone is an English composer who died of bronchial asthma at age thirty in 1906. His Sonata in F major for bassoon and piano from 1904 is a cheery and upbeat piece of Edwardian British complacency. The pianist has some devilishly difficult passages, and Reese was understandably uncomfortable in the fourth movement Finale. But overall, this was a fine performance of the work, a true collaboration that shares thematic material liberally between the bassoon and piano. For me, it was the highlight of the day.
If you missed hearing Buda perform this last Sunday, you can hear her as part of a thirteen-member ensemble performing Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring Suite” in its original chamber music setting later this month. The Copland work will be at the Diana Wortham Theater on Friday and Saturday, May 17-18 as part of Asheville Ballet’s spring program. Then it will be repeated, along with other chamber works, next Sunday, May 19, at the Masonic Temple in Asheville and the following Thursday, May 23, at White Horse Black Mountain. Please see the CVNC calendar for more information.