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Pan Harmonia is gaining a devoted following for its “2nd Sunday @ 5” chamber music series at the Altamont Theatre, and deservedly so. This month’s concert featured Rosalind Buda, who arrived in Asheville in 2011 after receiving a Master of Music degree at the New England Conservatory. Her primary instrument is the bassoon, and she is a stunning musician.
The concert began with Charles Koechlin’s Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 71, with Vance Reese as the pianist. This French composer’s three-movement work (Andante moderato, Nocturne, Allegro) uses many repeated rhythmic patterns based on French folk music, with interesting timbral modulations as the patterns are passed between the bassoon and the piano. It was an auspicious beginning to the concert.
In addition to playing bassoon, Rosalind Buda is an expert performer on the Highland pipes. She performs with a pipe and drum band that also includes E.J. Jones, a professional piper and instrument maker located in Asheville. Buda used the Scottish smallpipes, rather than the great pipes, in the intimate cabaret environment of the Altamont. She performed a traditional Scots Borders tune “Little Wee Winking Thing” before intermission and a contemporary piece for two pipes “Farewell Darling – Pixel” at the conclusion of the concert. Mr. Jones played the tambourine for the first and the second smallpipe for the second work.
Three works on the program were transcriptions. Early in the concert, J. S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor (BWV 1008) demonstrated Ms. Buda’s musicality as well as her agility on the solo bassoon. After intermission, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Six Studies in English Folk-Song (1926), originally for cello and piano, provided an interesting counterpoise to the Bach. Vaughan Williams provides an initial statement of an unfamiliar folk melody followed by his masterly variation using both bassoon and piano.
Robert Schumann’s Three Romances for Oboe and Piano (Op. 94) was, for me, the most successful of the transcriptions. Written with a wind instrument in mind, it had natural breath pauses. Written for a reed instrument, it sounded great on the bassoon. During the first romance (“Nicht schnell” which translates as “Not fast”), Buda’s upper register tone was breathtaking; I imagined that an English horn had been smuggled on stage. Both in his music journalism and in his music, Schumann had two personas that he called Eusebius and Florestan. Eusebius was introspective and lyrical, while Florestan was flamboyant and romantic. The second romance is marked “Einfach, innig” which translates as “easy, fervently” and could have been called “Eusebius, Florestan” since the two personas took turns in the music. The third romance, again “Nicht schnell,” made good use of the piano as well as the bassoon. Here as in his other collaborations, pianist Vance Reese was present with great voicing when needed but never obtrusive.
Rosalind Buda (the surname is pronounced Bew-da as in beauty) has a beauty of tone that reminds me of the legendary David van Hoesen, for many years principal bassoonist of the Rochester Philharmonic and Professor of Bassoon at the Eastman School of Music. Van Hoesen retired from Eastman in 1991 and in 2011 retired from the Lake Placid Sinfonietta after 65 years with that summer gig. We hope that Ms. Buda graces us with her presence for a comparable time period.