Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reappropriating J.E. Galliard's Music 2, A Simple Clue

John Ernest Galliard's Six Sonatas for Bassoon (1733), a collection which he is mainly remembered for today, are deceptively presented. At face value, the modern bassoonist would see them as simplistic pieces with a number of quirky movements. Because of this, the sonatas have been relegated to the 'beginner' repertoire lists of numerous conservatories and you would almost never find one included in a serious recital program.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Good Time to be a Cynic

When I am given the opportunity to speak in front of a group of musicians, I usually conduct an exercise or two. One of my most though-provoking involves asking all the participants to write down two rational reasons (or as close to as possible) why they should have a performing career. The only things which they are no allowed to write down are "I can't imagine doing anything else," or "I love to do it." After 5 minutes or so, the participants reveal their reasons. The funny thing is, most of the time hardly anyone can think of something which they themselves believe is legitimate. It seemed that many of the people who I'd gone through this exercise with started on a path and never questioned why performing was important to them. Even years after the experiment, some have told me that they still haven't come up with anything. I've struggled with since I came to Basel four years ago.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Concerto for 24 Bassoons?!

Last May I performed my final recital at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. The program centered around the music of English theater composers from the first half of the 18th century. My goal for the evening was to posit that works by composers contemporary to G.F. Handel which are today overlooked were worthy of our attention. One particular personality who I focused on was that of John Ernest Galliard, the German immigrant. Galliard was a central figure at the Lincoln's Inn Field's theater for nearly three decades where he wrote the music to numerous productions.

On 11 December 1744 a concert was given for his benefit (likely marking his retirement) at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Following a performance of Love and Folly, as well as four choruses written for the tragedy Julius Caesar, a “Concerto grosso, 24 Bassoons, accompanied by Caporale on the violoncello” was performed. The concerto is the only work of this instrumentation on record and was more likely produced with the intention of creating a novel entertainment than for artistic reasons. Sadly, this work, as well as any other information about its performance, has been lost.

In response to our predicament, I took it upon myself to compose a new concerto for 24 bassoons. Basing it upon a variety of music by both contemporary composers active in London, as well as those whose music Galliard was familiar with at the time of his benefit, this new concerto is stylistically plausible for the scenario of a performance in mid-century Britain. To be clear: my intention with this work is to present an entirely new creation, not to try and reconstruct the original using Galliard’s surviving works as a basis.

Below you can find a selection of movements from the premier performance at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis on 27 May 2016. All bassoons present are modern copies (pitched at A=415Hz) of originals made in the 18th century. 

I should note that this was not a professional concert and that I hesitated to put any of this online. With an ensemble only a fraction of the intended size, and given the little rehearsal time we had, I feel that there is a better performance yet to come. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that Galliard's concerto was composed in a festive spirit, and I believe all bassoonists should be aware of that historic moment in 1744. Therefore, in the spirit of good humor, I present to you selections from:

The Grand Concerto
A Concerto Grosso for 24 Bassoons newly fashion’d by Mr. Burn in response to that by Mr. Galliard which was perf’d for his Benefit at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1744

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lukas Henning: Rome 1623

A few days ago I had the chance to interview Lukas Henning, whose groundbreaking masterrezital was recently published on YouTube. After months of research, planning, and practicing, the performance was well received by all. Being in the audience myself, it was interesting to imagine the possibilities for such a "scenic production". 
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