Reed concert at Towson succeeds with tough sell

August 14, 1991|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Performing musicians are like salesmen. They sell us pieces of music that -- under ordinary circumstances -- we might not want to listen to.

This came to mind last night in Stephens Hall at Towson State University at the first evening concert of the International Double Reed Festival. Selling the piano, the violin or even the cello repertory is relatively easy: So much of the merchandise is quality stuff, bearing labels with names such as Chopin, Bach and Beethoven. The repertory for bassoon and oboe -- the two instruments performed upon last night -- is quite another matter. Selling the "Scenes Ecossaises" for oboe of Benjamin Godard (1849-1895) requires more of the art of persuasion than does Beethoven's Opus 111 piano sonata.

That is what made the performance of Richard Woodhams all the more wonderful. Woodhams, the principal oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was able to convince a listener that this music was a masterpiece. The man's breath control was phenomenal, the range of dynamics wide, the technique masterly and the playing extraordinarily fluid. He is so fine a player that he was able flawlessly to control his low register-- not the easiest thing to do on his instrument -- making it match the wispiest pianissimos produced by his fine pianist, Kiyoko Takeuti. Performances of music by Saint-Saens, J. W. Kalliwoda and Persichetti were just as fine.

Also impressive but somewhat less enjoyable was bassoonist David McGill's part of the recital. McGill, the principal of the Cleveland Orchestra, performed a transcription of Brahms Sonata No. 1 for Clarinet and Piano, Oskar Morawetz' 1987 Sonata and the Impromptu and Humoresque by Reinhold Gliere. The Brahms told one little other than that this music sounds better on the instrument for which it was written. McGill's performance of the Morawetz -- a neo-Bartokian piece with some wonderful lower register effects -- and of the Gliere amply demonstrated his masterly control of his difficult instrument.

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