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Wednesday, October 16, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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For Bassoon Fans, It Was A Night To Remember

Seattle Times Music Critic

Music review Arthur Grossman, bassoonist, in recital with pianist Holly Herrmann and cellist Toby Saks; Meany Theater, last night.

The bassoon, more often found in the center of the orchestra or in the anchor position of the woodwind quintet, took center stage last night at Meany Theater in the hands of University of Washington music professor (and associate arts dean) Arthur Grossman. With his faculty colleagues Holly Herrmann (piano) and Toby Saks (cello), Grossman took his instrument on a traversal of three centuries' worth of bassoon music - from Telemann to the contemporary composer Ray Luke.

The evening displayed the attributes local music lovers have long learned to expect from Grossman: technical facility, attention to musical detail, and a rather dark, velvety tone quality that is consistent to both ends of the compass (last night's recital stretched more than three octaves).

Among the highlights were an extensively ornamented and fluent Telemann Sonata in F Minor, a lyrically expansive Noel-Gallon Recit et Allegro, and a richly varied Saint-Saens Sonata for Bassoon and Piano. Grossman and his pianist also undertook Ray Luke's "Contrasts," a conversational and wide-leaping piece written for Grossman's teacher, and the Introduction et Polonaise@to by Jules Demersseman, very much in the grand manner.

Though he has the technical equipment, Grossman is not a fiery or emotive soloist; he is a serious player, one more drawn to detail than to display.

Herrmann gave impeccably graceful but overly reticent support from the keyboard - probably for fear of drowning out the soloist. The best partnership, in terms of balances, came in the Saint-Saens Sonata. Toby Saks, the well-known cellist and founder of the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, joined Grossman for Mozart's Sonata for Bassoon and Cello, a work that found neither player displayed to optimum advantage.

The evening ended on a comic note, with a short and witty piece for contrabassoon (the bassoon's larger cousin, usually described as the lowest instrument in the orchestra) and piano. Grossman got all the notes, including the wonderfully buzzy low ones, but the instrument's tone quality did not blossom as it can in for contrabassoon specialists who tend it with full-time care. Still, it's great to see this often neglected instrument take its place in the spotlight.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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