Even the largest orchestras, while they may may have a few dozen string players, rarely employ more than one or two full-time bassoonists.
“It has to come from a place of passion,” were the words of long experience from bassoonist Andrew Schwartz, when I asked what advice he gives his students on how to rise to the top as a performer on such a specialty instrument. He also emphasized the hard work, practice and tenacity aspects (oh, that!) of his own successful career.
Schwartz visited the Radiator yesterday for the grand finale in a series of three “Mondays with Mozart” this summer, in partnership with the Vermont Mozart Festival. He’s a regular performer with the Festival, and has a featured role in the concert coming up this Friday (playing Mozart’s only remaining Bassoon Concerto).
As the Burlington Yoga Studio filled with listeners and late afternoon sunlight, Schwartz opened the session by handing out pieces of his bassoon. Yes, segment by segment, the instrument was dispersed throughout the room to amused audience members who hesitantly accepted them, turning the burnished pieces over and over and glancing at each other with some puzzlement.
Schwartz explained, “I always like to hand out the pieces of my bassoon. It really shows people, it’s just a bunch of sticks!” Then as quickly as he had distributed them he collected the parts, assembled them, and launched a lively and entertaining session that included famous bassoon highlights from Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Stravinsky’s haunting opening to The Rite of Spring, and – of course – “Grandpa’s” voice from Peter and the Wolf.
Just a bunch of sticks? So are chopsticks and pencils. And toothpicks, for that matter. They sure don’t sound like that.
(“World of Music” returns from summer hiatus on Monday, August 17th, starting at 3pm EDT. Listen online at The Radiator, or in Burlington, VT at 105.9FM.)