Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bassoon Music Reviews: 'Bassoon Sonata' of Ulysses Kay is 'perhaps the most fascinating work I've encountered yet'

[TOP: Legacy: Works For Bassoon By African-American Composers; Lecolion Washington, bassoon; Albany Troy1038 (2008) BOTTOM: Ulysses S. Kay (Photo: Brandeis University Archives, Carl Van Vechten 11-13-1947)]

Posted by Alex Widstrand
"Ulysses Kay: Bassoon Sonata (1941)
RECORDING: Lecolion Washington, bassoon; Mark Ensley, piano
SHEET MUSIC: Prairie Dawg Press

“It's always a great pleasure to find truly unusual and interesting bassoon solos. Perhaps the most fascinating work I’ve encountered yet is the bassoon sonata by twentieth century African American composer Ulysses Kay.

“There are quite a few reasons that Kay’s sonata is a highly unique piece of music:

+ It’s one of the only—if not the only—bassoon sonatas by a composer with African roots
+ It’s only one movement long, only loosely following traditional sonata form
+ Kay attempted to suppress this Sonata by destroying as many copies as he could (fortunately, a few copies survived the purge)

“Kay wrote his bassoon sonata while studying composition with Paul Hindemith. There is definitely a Hindemithian flavor to this sonata—it could easily pass as an additional movement to Hindemith’s well-known bassoon sonata. Although perhaps not the most original in sound, Kay’s bassoon sonata is a well-crafted short work (five and a half minutes on Lecolion Washington’s recording, although Kay gives no tempo indications in his manuscript).”

“In any case, Kay’s short but sweet sonata is certainly a worthwhile addition to the contemporary bassoon sonata repertory.” [Ulysses S. Kay (1917-1995) is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, http://www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com]

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