Thursday, June 29, 2017

K. David Van Hoesen - Teaching, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about the teaching of K. David Van Hoesen (1926-2015). He was the bassoon teacher at the Eastman School of Music from the mid-1950's through the 1980's. Former students of his populate the major orchestras of the United States and the faculties of many music schools across the country.

Van Hoesen passed on his teaching orally in lessons and master classes. Therefore, there's not a lot of written material to be had covering his teaching. However, I've collected a few things and his son-in-law, oboist Jim Gorton has shared some material with me.

The following must have been a set of notes he used for a class. He mentions the Saint-Sans Bassoon Sonata and must have taught that in the class. These are maxims we heard in our lessons on a regular basis.

Perhaps a few of these maxims require a bit of explanation. #4 and #5, "Slow notes go fast, fast notes go slow" doesn't mean to rush longer value notes and drag shorter value notes.

The idea here is to create motion during long notes so the phrase doesn't die. With faster notes, the idea is to make sure they take up all the space they're allowed so they are expressive, voiced with the same care as a long note and don't get compressed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Best Perspective

Last week at the International Double Reed Society Conference I had a memorable experience.

The Conference was held on the campus of Lawrence University. On the bottom level of its Warsh Center was a wonderful cafeteria where many of the attendees ate lunch.

One afternoon I bought lunch and sat down at a table of bassoonists. We were all discussing various technical matters related to the bassoon when an elderly woman came by and sat down next to me.

She started a familiar conversation with me. She is 81 years old and had never heard a bassoonist play a solo before. I had played on the concert the night before and she heard me. Her eyes lit up with excitement as she described the wonder she felt at hearing what a bassoon sounded like up close. She said she'd waited 81 years to hear the sound of a bassoon!

I noticed she was not wearing the lanyard we all wore as Conference participants. She must have been one of the very few people in the cafeteria not directly involved with the Conference.

Unlike the rest of us who were there to advance careers, perform new pieces, sell merchandise, etc., she was attending just to hear the instruments and our music.

After lunch, I walked across the campus to another venue. On my way, she passed me on her bike (!) and wished me a good day!  She was a local resident, just taking advantage of the unique opportunity to hear music for double reed instruments on a particular week in June in her town!

It occurs to me that it is really people like this woman for whom we perform. Many people have heard a violinist play a solo, but I'm sure many of you share the experience I've had when I say, that after 40 years of a career as a bassoonist, I still hear from audience members who have NEVER heard a bassoonist play a solo.

As we seek levels of ever rarefied perfection in our practicing, it's vital for us to rememberthat the audience member's perspective is often that of someone hearing our music and our instrument for the first time!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Malambo at IDRS

Last Tuesday I performed Miguel del Aguila's Malambo with orchestra at the International Double Reed Society Conference in Appleton, Wisconsin. The concert was on the Lawrence University Campus in Memorial Chapel. 

Previously this spring I had performed the two other versions of this piece for bassoon and piano at the University of Arkansas and with string quartet here in Cleveland on the Arts Renaissance Cleveland concert series. Now I've performed all three versions!

The version for bassoon and string orchestra adds the bass section, of course. There is a wonderful soli for them accompanying the bassoon at the beginning!

Miguel was there and heard the performance. It was great to see him and spend time together.

Here we are with Scott Pool, the bassoonist who organized the commission. Scott performed the bassoon and piano version of the piece the next day at the Conference.

 Anyone considering performing this piece is welcome to contact me with any questions that arise about it.  I would be happy to help with further performances!