Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Myrtle Hart Society: 'Legacy: works for bassoon by African-American composers' by Dr. De Lerma

Legacy: Works for Bassoon by African-American composers
Albany TROY 1038 (2008)

Lecolion Washington Jr., bassoon
Carina Nyberg Washington, clarinet & soprano
Mark Ensley, piano

William Grant Still. If you should go. Song for the lonely. Bayou home.
Adolphus Hailstork. Bassoon set.
Ed Bland. One on one for bassoon and clarinet.
Ulysses Kay. Sonata for bassoon and piano.

Ed Bland. For bassoon.
Gary Powell Nash. Deformation for bassoon and piano after J. S. Bach's allegro from sonata II in A minor for solo violin.
Ed Bland. One on one for bassoon and virtual percussion. Traditional Swedish folk song. Uti vår hage.
Daniel Bernard Roumain. Lecolion loops after Uti vår hage.

It will soon be forty years since the late D. Antoinette Handy issued an LP album of flute music by Black composers. Joining in this early wave were the Oakland Youth Orchestra, Columbia's Black Composers Series, and Natalie Hinderas' piano anthology. While there is plenty of piano music by Black composers (and Natalie's commissions added wonderfully to the repertoire), a volume of flute music was a surprise. And now we have one featuring the bassoon. Only one work was commissioned for this recording! The others have been around waiting to be discovered and performed.

The works by Still were originally songs (arranged here by Alexis Still - no relation). Although the words are missing, they are still songs, thanks to the soloist. We are treated to three works by Ed Bland, one engaging the bassoonist's wife. Only two of the composers currently have faculty positions. Dr. Hailstork is Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University, and Gary Powell Nash is at Fisk University.

It was not long ago that I located the one-movement sonata by Ulysses Kay, thanks to the staff of the Sibley Music Library at Eastman. The title is missing from all the literature and, although written about the time he studied with Hindemith, I've encountered no indication of a performance prior to the one recently given by my colleague at Lawrence, Monte Perkins. A sturdy sense of craft is already present in this early work.

The longest of the pieces is by the youngest composer, Dr. Roumain, and is among the most interesting works by this figure. Of Haitian ancestry, he has found a stimulus in hip hop and presumably that is present here, but not so overtly. He has the clarinet and bassoon looping each other in a way that is sonically fascinating. The work is in three movements, lasting about 20 splendid minutes.

This CD exemplifies the full range of the bassoon, all of which Mr. Washington commands. He has given a focus to some fine music (with liner notes specifying publisher information). The potential for repertoire innovation should be seriously noted. And thanks to Albany Records for yet another splendid CD! Dominique-René de Lerma, Lawrence University. Lecolion Washington, Jr. is a faculty member at the University of Memphis.

1 comment:

Kofi Martin said...

Hey! Great for featuring a professor of mine! I'm actually studying with Dr. James Gholson, also at the University of Memphis. Professor Washington is hella' amazing. Small world.