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Something Old is New Again - Bassoon & String Quartet

In a conservatory setting, students are constantly exposed to music standards - Mozart, Weber, Hindemith, and Hummel. Although most definitely important to every bassoonist's repertoire, I'm always on the look-out for new, intriguing, or under-rated bassoon pieces.

Last Spring I heard a most fantastic performance of a late 18th century piece entitled Quintet in a minor for bassoon and strings by Jean Baptise Du Puy. Until this recital, I have to admit, I had no prior knowledge of this composer, nor did I realize his extensive compositional resume: 2 operas, 4 ballets, numerous theater works, instrumental concerti (for violin, flute, clarinet, and bassoon), cantatas, chamber music, romances, chansons, military music, and piano pieces.

The Spring performance was by Maxwell Grube, a wonderful friend, inspiring bassoonist, and amazing reed maker who is finalizing his DMA here at Eastman. The performance was both a presentation of his research thesis and a lecture recital. For his final project, Max created a new edition of the piece, with score and updated parts. Why, you might ask? It turns out, "no autography or modern full score is known to exist," which makes rehearsing and analyzing the 5 parts as an entity rather difficult. Max's goal was to spread awareness of an otherwise unfamiliar piece in the repertoire while simultaneously providing bassoonists with an edition that was easer to work from.

While working on the project Max discovered:

“The compositional date of Du Puy’s Quintet in A minor for Bassoon and Strings is unknown. While Du Puy contributed the first two movements of the work, a Stockholm oboist named Karl Braun composed the third movement (Rondo). It is possible that the Rondo serves as a posthumous tribute to Du Puy, because the compositional date of the final movement is also unknown. This claim is supported by the recurring fragments of the first movement’s lyrical principle theme, which are continually echoed in the string parts during the Rondo. The solo bassoon part of the first two movements seems to draw upon the aspects of beautiful tone, florid delivery, shapely phrasing, and effortless technique that characterize the bel canto opera tradition—perhaps evoking the composer’s own tenor voice. Braun’s Rondo utilizes lively Hungarian dances and percussive rhythmic gestures, i.e., Lombard rhythms, acciaccature, which are reminiscent of C.M. Weber’s Andante and Hungarian Rondo (1813).”

The set is being published, and soon will be available to the public, by TrevCo Music Publishing. So, if you are looking for a fantastic chamber piece to start working on, or add to your recital, I highly recommend checking it out!


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