Alumnus returns as part of Artist Series

Sonia Emmons

The fourth and final installment of the 2006-07 Artist Series concerts brings bassoonist Peter Kolkay home to familiar territory for a solo concert Sat., April 21 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.
The highly decorated Lawrence graduate left in 1998 with a Bachelor of Music degree in bassoon performance.
After his four years at Lawrence, Kolkay went on to receive his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and his doctorate from Yale University.
Saturday’s program offers a wide variety of music, including the world premier of “The Dark Hours” by Judah Adashi, a contemporary sonata by Andr Previn, a Saint-Sa‰ns sonata, and a Brahms sonata transcribed by Kolkay himself.
The first half of the program features the more widely known music by Saint-Sa‰ns and Brahms, while the second half presents the somewhat less familiar works of Adashi and Previn.
For Saturday’s performance, Kolkay is joined by collaborative pianist Alexandra Nguyen. Nguyen and Kolkay are two of the founding members of the Trio Encantar, which also includes oboist Deirdre Chadwick.
“The Dark Hours,” a piece commissioned for Kolkay, was inspired by the poem of the same title by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
The poem explores the freedom of an artist’s inner world, versus the restrictions of the outer world.
In the program notes, Adashi explains, “The poem’s encapsulation of Rilke’s sensibilities struck me as both an apt metaphor for the creative process, and a natural fit for the rich, dark sound world of the bassoon.”
Musicians familiar with the Brahms Sonata in F minor might be surprised to hear the bassoon add its dark touch to a piece originally composed for clarinet, and then transcribed by Brahms for viola.
Kolkay will perform his original transcription for bassoon.
Lecturer in Music Monte Perkins, Kolkay’s teacher at Lawrence and the current teacher of bassoon, remarked, “It is not uncommon for bassoons to dip into other instruments’ literature, especially in the Romantic era.”
The bulk of bassoon literature can be found in the Baroque and Classical periods, with 38 concerti by Vivaldi alone.
Perkins also noted that most works for bassoon are shorter in length, typically lasting about eight to 10 minutes.
When giving a solo concert, it is unusual to perform a great number of short pieces, so transcriptions usually provide the answer.
“For a concert tour, there’s always the showbiz aspect!” he said. The Saint-Sa‰ns Sonata opus 168 is another standard piece in bassoon literature.
According to junior Emma Ashbrook, who has performed the sonata, it was originally written for the French bassoon, an instrument that is no longer common but which had the ability to go much higher than today’s standard German bassoon.
Ashbrook noted, “The screaming E at the end of the second movement – on French bassoon this would have been a lot easier!”
Student tickets can be purchased at the box office for $8 or $9. The concert, like the bassoon, promises to be dark and rich.
As Ashbrook exclaimed, “The great thing about bassoon is its fabulous character and the fabulous characters that play it!