Libby Larsen -- Concertpiece for Bassoon and Piano. Libby Larsen studied theory and composition at University of Minnesota, earning her PhD in 1978. While still a student, she co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum (now the American Composers Forum) to help connect composers with performers and communities. Larsen has served as composer-in-residence for the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and is the recipient of both an NEA Fellowship and a Grammy award. Larsen has written music in myriad genres, and often weaves threads of American popular music into her works. She is an ardent advocate for women in music, and frequently writes on female subjects and uses texts by women authors. The International Double Reed Society commissioned Larsen to write her Concertpiece for Bassoon and Piano. Bassoonist Benjamin Kamins and pianist Jason Hardink gave the première performance at the 2008 IDRS Conference in Provo, Utah. Larsen writes that she envisioned the three-movement work as commentary by a “minstrel/poet” (the bassoon) on our culture’s expressiveness. This expressiveness, she says, is “a deeply lyrical narrative combined with a syncopated, percussive, multi-inflected, and driving nature.” This interplay between lyricism and percussive syncopation is prevalent in the piece’s two outer movements. Larsen’s Concertpiece was one of the required works for the 2010 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition, held at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Leslie Bassett -- Metamorphosis (1992) Leslie Bassett was born on a ranch in central California in 1923. He entered the composition program at Fresno State University but World War II interrupted his studies. He served as trombonist and arranger for the U.S. Army’s 13th Armored Division Band during the war, and then returned to school. He earned both his Master’s and Doctorate in composition under the tutelage of Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan, with further instruction from Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger as a Fulbright Fellow in Paris. In 1951 Bassett joined the composition faculty at the University of Michigan. During his forty-year academic career, Bassett received the Pulitzer Prize, the Prix de Rome, and two Guggenheim Fellowships. He retired from teaching in 1991, but has remained active as a composer. Among the works Bassett has published since his retirement are Wood and Reed Transformed (1998) for bassoon and wind ensemble, and the one on this disc, Metamorphoses (1992) for solo bassoon. Metamorphoses consists of eight movements, each of which is inspired by a different orchestral excerpt for bassoon. These excerpts come from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4, three of Beethoven’s symphonies, Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, and Chabrier’s España. Rather than quoting any of the excerpts in their entirety, Bassett uses them as launching points for free explorations of various compositional or performance techniques. The piece was commissioned by friends of L. Hugh Cooper, longtime Professor of Bassoon at Michigan, and premiered by Wendy Rose.
Willard Elliot -- Sonata (1998 Willard Somers Elliot was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1926. He began his musical studies early, starting on piano and also picking up the clarinet before switching to bassoon at age 14. He attended the Eastman School, where he studied bassoon with Vincent Pezzi and composition with Bernard Rogers. Elliot became a member of the Houston Symphony in 1946 and played with the Dallas Symphony from 1951 until 1964. Elliot’s primary orchestral position was that of Principal Bassoon of the Chicago Symphony, which he held from 1964 until his retirement in 1997. After stepping down from the symphony Elliot returned to his native Fort Worth, where he taught at Texas Christian University until his death in 2000. Although he was primarily an orchestral performer, Elliot also devoted considerable energy to composition. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of his output was for his own instrument in various settings. His works include: Six Portuguese Songs for bassoon and piano; Three Duets for flute and bassoon; Poem for bassoon and string quartet; three pieces for bassoon and orchestra; and many mixed chamber works. Elliot performed his own Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra with the CSO twice — in 1965 under Seiji Ozawa and later with Jean Martinon. Elliot’s Sonata was one of his last published works. He wrote the two-movement piece in 1998, dedicating it to one of his then-students, Colombian bassoonist Maria Lucia Garavito Arciniegas.
Francisco Mignone -- Sonata No. 1 para dois fagots (1961) Francisco Mignone was born in Brazil to Italian immigrant parents and received his initial musical training from his father Alferio, a professional flutist. Francisco studied composition at the conservatories of São Paulo and Milan, and then held a succession of teaching positions and music directorships in Brazil. Mignone’s early works display the influence of his Italian heritage and education, but in the late 1920s he became very interested in the idea of musical nationalism. For the next thirty years he drew significant inspiration from a variety of Brazilian folk and popular traditions before shifting to a more diverse compositional style in the 1960s. In this late period, Mignone still used some nationalistic elements, but also explored serialism, tone clusters, and other atonal techniques. The Sonata No. 1 para dois fagots (1961) comes from this later more eclectic period, but is entirely tonal and employs popular Brazilian forms. The first movement is a sprightly Allegro in E major that occasionally slips into moments of pathos and melancholy. The middle movement takes the form of a Modinha, a sentimental Brazilian love song. Mignone labels the final movement Chorinho, a type of popular Brazilian instrumental music also known as choro. Although choro means “cry” or “lament,” the music that bears this label is usually quick, happy, and virtuosic. This and the atonal Sonata No. 2 para dois fagotes (1967) are just two of more than thirty of Mignone’s works that feature the bassoon. His large output for the instrument was a result of his close association with Noël Devos, a French bassoonist who moved to Rio de Janiero in 1952 and championed music for bassoon by Brazilian composers.
Nancy Galbraith -- Sonata for Bassoon and Piano Nancy Galbraith began playing piano and clarinet in her youth in Pittsburgh, PA. She earned degrees in composition from the Universities of Ohio and West Virginia, and also studied piano, organ, and composition at Carnegie Mellon. Galbraith joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon in 1986, and is today the school’s Chair of Composition. Her output covers a multitude of both secular and sacred genres, including works for solo organ, choir, orchestra, wind ensemble, brass band, and various chamber ensembles. Galbraith writes that her compositional style shows the influence of Christian liturgical music and Western classical music, and also incorporates elements of various types of popular and traditional musics from around the world. Also active as a performer, Galbraith serves as Organist and Music Director at Pittsburgh’s Christ Lutheran Church. Galbraith dedicated her Sonata for Bassoon and Piano to bassoonist Eric Goldman. Goldman and pianist Donna Amato premiered the piece on February 26, 2005 at Carnegie Mellon University. The first of the piece’s three movements is bouncy and animated, with a great deal of syncopation and frequent changes of meter. The second movement has a core of frenzied activity, featuring long arpeggiated sweeps from both instruments, and big, powerful octaves (marked quintuple forte) in the piano. This is bookended by lyrical, almost wistful, slow, quiet sections. Perpetual motion underlies the final movement; the rapid interplay of the two parts slows only for a brief cadenza. Galbraith’s Sonata was included in the required repertoire for the 2007 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition held in Ithaca, NY.