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4amici: Quartet for Violin, Viol...
4amici: Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello & Bassoon
Brett Allen Music
As unusual as the quartet combination of Bassoon, Violin, Viola and Cello may be, there does exist an ample body of repertoire for it. Out of the Classical period composers
Franz Anton Pfeiffer
Johann Christoph Vogel
all wrote for the combination. Though not household names like Mozart or Haydn, their output remains significant today for both showcasing the bassoon and tracing the development of bassoon technique.
In more recent times, and in like manner, composers Villa-Lobos and Vaughn Williams have works setting solo bassoon against a bed of strings, though not the exact combination under discussion. But,
, long-time Principal Bassoonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, now retired, has no less than three Quartets for Bassoon, Violin, Viola and Cello in his catalog, in addition to reams of other bassoon-centric chamber works.
, Principal Bassoonist with the Columbus Symphony, invited me to play and compose for her Amici Quartet, I saw it as an opportunity to break the bassoon-showcase mold in some respects. I thought, "Bassoon, plus Violin, Viola and Cello. How likely is that? It sounds like a wedding gig where the 2nd Violinist became indisposed and the other quartet members went out and grabbed the first instrumentalist to come along - a bassoonist!" Such suspension of disbelief is possible only in music videos, but I retained the idea of this being some kind of pick-up group.
That, plus I had just seen the movie,
. I won't give the plot away except to say that a burned out college professor gets hooked on hand drumming and starts showing up at
community drum circles
. The phenomena of drum circles is of huge interest to me because it is quite the opposite of my classical, tightly structured training in music. What I am saying is -
it explodes my whole musical universe!
No one brings music. No one comes "prepared." It doesn't matter how "good" you are. No one knows what's going to happen. There's no leader. It's entirely spontaneous. As the drumming rises in intensity, people start dancing and singing. All the while new and interesting drumming patterns are rising to the surface. There's no distinction between audience and performers. No one "performance" can be written down or recreated. No one owns it. No one says, "I invented this, I am a great genius." It seems to reach down deep in the human soul and call forth some primitive, essential need to express. Everyone goes away quite satisfied, the same as if they had just listened to Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
I went to work on my "
" quartet with all these things in mind. I had a vision, like a stage play. Four buddies (four friends, "quattro amici"), wandering about the city, decide to gather in a public spot for a jam session. In this vision each instrumentalist is an
participant, it's not just the bassoon on display. Each one throws in a musical idea. One is thinking about half-steps. Another throws in a forceful downward third. Another takes that and turns it on its head. Before long some semblance of music takes shape. Suddenly, there is an interruption, ceremonial music, as if the mayor is passing by. Later, the same material is transformed into something that sounds like a war song from the old country. Then the strings decide to cut the bassoon out and do their own thing. But the bassoonist won't have it and crashes the party. And so it goes, on and on. Each section spins out new ideas and new sections. Where it is headed and where it ends is anyone's guess. Eventually though, as with drum circles, the high energy dissipates and everyone calls it a night.
Sample parts are available on
. Sheet Music is available for purchase
Full Score, Sheet Music Sample:
Franz Joseph Haydn
Bernard H. Garfield
Columbus Symphony Orchestra
1 year ago
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