by Daniel Hathaway
After the prizes were handed out, the third joint concert of the weekend on Sunday evening, January 17, brought the 2010 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion.
Sue Heineman of the National Symphony must have been a bit breathless, having flown in only that afternoon to judge the final round and play the first segment of the final concert, but none of that showed in her performance of Bach’s Partita (originally for solo flute). Heineman has incredible lungs, chops and stamina, and played with remarkable lyricism. After the Bach, she was joined on stage by Samantha Brenner, Thomas Schneider & Nicholas Cohen for George Sakakeeny’s arrangement of the Andante from Tchaikovsky’s Second String Quartet (“we refer to it as Tchaikakeeny”). This was a beautiful little piece played with affectionate lyricism and creamy tone.
Kathleen McLean of Indiana University, being herself Canadian, offered up two attractive works by Canadian composers. Lussier’s Bassango (written for the Caliban Quartet) was a sultry Habañera in which bassoon and piano (played by Vincent de Vries) traded melodic and bass roles. Alain Bernhard’s Hallucinations began in an atonal miasma, then became more rhythmic, featuring cascades of triads accompanying melodic lines and an amazing ascending line for the bassoon before murmuring into nothingness. McLean’s elegant tone and interpretive magic made for a memorable set.
Ben Kamins of Rice University was star of the third part of tonight’s 75-minute program, beginning with Elgar’s opulent Romance, which he described as “more of an elegy, perhaps for Elgar’s beloved Victorian England”. Bitsch’s Concertino of 1948 was an attractive and beautifully performed Paris Conservatory piece. Vincent de Vries was Kamins’ expressive and attentive partner at the keyboard. Then fellow bassoonists Michael Matushek, Andrew Pattison & Julia Bair joined Kamins, harpsichordist Webb Wiggins and bassist Greg Whitmore for Michel Corrette’s infectiously charming Concerto ‘Le Phenix’ from 1738. This version passed solo lines around among all the bassoonists, so everybody had a piece of the fun. So did the audience, who lapped it all up. What a fine way to end an intense weekend of activities for more bassoonists than you’ll see in one place for quite a while.
Mike Telin contributed to this post.