Peter Kolkay Delivers Compelling Program for Bassoon

It’s an unusual combination of instruments. And it makes for an unusually interesting program. This release features some of the biggest names in contemporary music. These aren’t their biggest pieces. But the music is uniformly first-rate and innovative.

Bassonist Peter Kolkay has assembled a carefully thought-out program. All four composers might be considered tonal. And yet each has their own definition as to what that means.

Kolkay commissioned Joan Tower’s “Red Maple,” a concerto for bassoon and orchestra. This version is for string quartet, and it works quite well. The intimate nature of the arrangement creates a conversation between soloist and ensemble. 

Kolkay also commissioned “Massarosa” by Mark-Anthony Turnage. This is a more dissonant work than “Red Maple.” And has a sense of emotional drama, unlike the relatively serene Tower work. But both are at heart lyrical works. Both give the bassoon a chance to sing. And Kolkay does just that. 

His tone is warm and full. And he’s able to spin out long, flowing melodies with apparent ease.

Russell Platt’s Quintet for bassoon and string quartet wasn’t commissioned by Kolkay. But he still makes it his own. Kolkay’s playing has a plaintive quality to it that’s quite evocative. 

Judith Weir’s “Wake Your Wild Voice” is for bassoon and cello. The two instruments have a similar range, but very different timbre. Weir uses that contrast to great effect. 

This is an album that should appeal to anyone. Not just those interested in contemporary music, or chamber music. But anyone who can appreciate skilled musicians performing music of quality.   

Red Maple: Music for Bassoon and Strings
Music by Joan Tower, Russell Platt, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Judith Wier
Peter Kolkay, bassoon; Calidore String Quartet
Bridge Records 9587

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