Celebrating 40 years! 1983-2023

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Concerto - BSN/PN

Composer: Theofanidis, Christopher

Publisher: Bill Holab Music

Edition: 58389


for bassoon and piano
by Christopher Theofanidis (b. 1967) - American composer
I. Alone, inward
II. Beautiful
III. Searing, focused
Commissioned by the Absolute Ensemble for Martin Kuuskmann. Originally for bassoon and orchestra, this is the piano reduction. 

I wrote my bassoon concerto for my good friend Martin Kuuskmann, whom I had known since 1992 from my days as a student at Yale.  Martin was always the last person out of the school of music at night, and I would often pass his practice room and wonder what drove him- he seemed to have an obsessive zeal for mastering the bassoon, and he was determined to build a repertory and to represent it in the most visible way.   I have known many musicians of an extremely high caliber in my life, but Martin really stands out from among even the most accomplished of those.

A few years later he was playing with the Absolute Ensemble in New York and was able to commission a new work from them, and that is how my piece came to be.  At that time, I wrote just a two-movement piece- the now outer two movements of this version, but later in 2002 when we were offered the possibility of programming it again, I added the current middle movement which incorporated elements that had become part of my writing in the interim.

The opening movement starts with an introspective cadenza which then opens into a fast and restless first movement that makes use of several of the materials from the opening cadenza.  The second movement is based on a kind of  melodic ornamentation that one would hear in the Greek Orthodox church- fast inflections of long tones that keep the notes ‘alive’ in time.  It is also a style of ornamentation that one finds throughout the Balkan region, and I think that, as it is heard here in the bassoon, now reminds me most of Bulgarian bagpipe playing- in no small part because Martin regularly circular-breathes to play it, creating the sound of continuous breath.  The third movement is based on a fast pattern of sixes in the bassoon line and a slower background harmonic progression which is eventually revealed clearly near the end of the work as the faster notes peal away.

-Christopher Theofanidis

Duration: 23:00