Faculty performs new music at recital

Instructor of Music and bassoonist Carl Rath gave a recital of new music in Harper Hall on Sunday, Jan. 20. Rath’s affable personality and stage presence showed immediately when he talked to the audience before the first piece and promised to give game score updates throughout his performance (which he did). He first performed “Low Agenda” by Gernot Wolfgang with Associate Professor of Music and bassist Mark Urness. Rath played a groovy bassoon melody over a bass accompaniment with tricky rhythmic ostinatos, which Urness played with finesse. A latter portion of the piece contained more rock-oriented facets with slap pizzicato in the bass and catchy rhythms. Rath and Urness’ easy musicianship and synchronized playing made a great opener for the recital.

Next, Rath introduced “Aires Mediterráneos” by Raúl Martín Niñerola, which he first heard performed at the International Double Reed Conference in Grenada, Spain. Collaborating with Associate Professor of Music and pianist Anthony Padilla, Rath performed the three-movement work with aplomb, executing each section with the care and skill it required. In the first movement, a mournful bassoon solo soared over resolute fifths in the piano, which transitioned into a march section with bassoon interjections and a tender theme with grand piano gestures. The second movement featured a beautiful, simple theme carried by the bassoon over a thoughtful piano accompaniment. Then, the third movement began with swift themes in both bassoon and piano. Rath described this movement as “the most virtuosic” movement of the piece, evidenced by its challenging runs and the bassoon cadenza before the movement’s end. With their expressions, Rath and Padilla appeared to enjoy this piece as much as the audience, who applauded gratefully at the work’s conclusion.

“Stick Figures,” the third work on the recital, came from a colleague of Rath at the University of Oklahoma, Carolyn Bremer. In years previous, Bremer played bass while Rath played drums in the band MidLife Crysis. “I’m still having the crisis. I’m just not in the band anymore,” Rath quipped to much laughter. After singing Bremer’s praises, Rath announced he would play this piece in her memory, since Bremer recently passed away. Rath also explained one of the early names for bassoon, “fagott,” means “stick,” and each movement’s title contained a clever pun on the word.

In collaboration with pianist Nicholas Towns, Rath performed “Pogo Stick,” the first movement, which contained many accents at irregular intervals. In the second movement, “Stick Up,” Rath and Towns played syncopated rhythms with energy, which kept the audience on their toes. True to its name, the third movement “Stick Around/Stick in the Mud” plodded along slowly with a dark and brooding feel. The fourth movement “Stick Out” featured many accented chords and notes that stood out from the regular musical texture. Towns and Rath gave an excellent tribute to Bremer’s memory with this thrilling performance.

Adrienne Albert’s “Swing Shift” ended Rath’s recital and featured Padilla on piano and Professor of Music and percussionist Dane Richeson. Rhythmic sections with a Latin feel sandwiched an inner section where the bassoon imitated a classic jazz singer in the style of Ella Fitzgerald. The former section had a fun, dancing vibe while the latter felt more serene, and Rath acclimated his playing to each style, taking time like a singer when the music called for it. This piece was a fitting conclusion to Rath’s recital, one of many excellent performances by Conservatory faculty. Lawrence students are fortunate to have access to enjoyable, high-quality performances like Rath’s that display remarkable musicianship and great music.

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