BASSOON TRANSCENDED: Contemporary Music for Bassoon and Piano by Women Composers • Christin Schillinger, (bsn); Jed Moss (pn) • MSR 1439 (74:00)
ALBERT Circadia. ALEXANDER Fractals. MCTEE Circle Music III. KANDER The Lunch Counter. GALBRAITHRead more class="ARIAL12b"> Bassoon Sonata
Adrienne Albert had been singing for many years before the 1990s when she started composing. Her Circadia, which speaks to some aspects of human body rhythms, has three movements: “Cycles,” “Nightfall,” and “Spring Ahead.” In the first movement the bassoon and piano dialogue with musical motifs and percussive rhythms. “Nightfall” brings a restful legato melody for the bassoon that shows Christin Schillinger’s excellent breath control and fine tonal quality. “Spring Ahead,” the motto of the autumn Daylight Savings Time adjustment, offers a playful duet that provides a pleasant finale. Schillinger and pianist Jed Moss play Circadia with rhythmic alertness and beauty of tone. Elizabeth Alexander is best known for her choral works and her chamber works deserve to be more widely played. Fractals is a mathematical concept introduced by Benoit Mandelbrot in 1975. Typically, fractals are self-similar patterns that look the same whether seen close up or from far away. Their use in music is described in the well-written booklet that accompanies the recording. The first movement, “Cirri,” has no tempo markings and Alexander suggests that the bassoonist give entrance cues to the pianist. It is linked to the second movement, “Devil’s Staircase,” by a sustained low E? played on the piano. The third, “Twindragon,” makes use of jazz-based rhythms that eventually blend into the brooding “Rivertree” section. The Finale, “Tremas and Squigs,” which begins with a single, percussive piano note, swells into an impressive, full-fledged dialogue between bassoon and piano that dies back to the original note at the end.
Cindy McTee, who is married to conductor Leonard Slatkin, studied with Krzysztof Penderecki in Poland. In 1988, she wrote Circle Music, giving it no specific form. It is based on the presentation of musical fragments in an order to be determined by the players. Thus, this delightful piece can vary completely with the artists who perform it. Susan Kander’s The Lunch Counter is a musical play for solo bassoon without a text except for the spoken descriptions of its seven movements. Each of them is named after a person sitting at the counter. Jennifer has just said “yes” to her boyfriend’s proposal of marriage. Frank’s lover has recently passed away. Olivia is a child who is lunching out with her father because she has managed not to wet the bed for the past three nights. Margaret has lost her son in the war. Max, who has the same lunch every day, has not spoken to anyone in years. Specs and Shorty are students eating a hurried meal before class. Lorraine, whose movement is the Finale, is the waitress who talks to them and tries to understand their emotions, both spoken and unspoken. This piece requires the utmost technique from the bassoonist, but it poses no terrors for Schillinger, who plays her instrument with total mastery. Nancy Galbraith’s Sonata is traditional in form, but her vibrant rhythmic textures and unusual harmonic choices make it cutting edge contemporary music. In the first movement, she uses whole tone scales and polytonality. She follows it with a meditative second section and a dance like Finale that has a beautifully written bassoon cadenza. The sound is pristine on this recording and it places the bassoon in front of the piano. Kander’s Lunch Counter alone is so fascinating that it is worth the price of the recording.