So A Bassoonist Walks Into A Guitar Recital ...

A rousing evening of guitar music ended with a “dark mellow” flourish—from a bassoon.

Somehow it fit. And a sonic marriage was born.

The occasion was a free concert at Morse Recital Hall at College and Wall streets. Lots of wonderful free concerts take place there throughout the academic year, when Yale School of Music students (top performers from around the world attracted by the free tuition) offer recitals. They’re among New Haven’s lesser-known treasures.

The twice-a-year end-of-semester guitar group recitals cover wide musical territory and never disappoint, thanks to the consistent direction of Benjamin Verdery (pictured). Verdery is an internationally recognized classical composer and recording artist in his own right known for incorporating influences ranging from Prince to Bach, Cream to Mozart. Since 1985 he has also chaired Yale School of Music’s guitar department, developing some remarkable talent and treating New Haven to memorable performances.

This year’s crop of students’ talents were on display at the May 7 “Guitar Chamber Music Recital.” Some pieces featured guitar duos; others paired guitarists with a violinist, a violist, flutists, a lute player, a baroque harpist, from the school.

The evening closed with an uncommon pairing, even in Verdery’s unconventional music-verse: Ian Tuski’s guitar with Bogdan Dumitriu’s bassoon. The duo played two works, actually: First Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe, Op. 48”; then to close the evening, Astor Piazzola’s “Nightclub 1960.”

The finale immediately followed the evening’s most (intentionally) jarring piece: a Larry Polansky’s “10 Strings (9 Events),” a muddy, hard-driving piece reminiscent of the Delta blues, featuring a resophonic guitar rhythm sliced by sharp violin leads. The bassoon-guitar duet returned a calmer, melodic vibe with which to send the crowd out into the night.

The two instruments often accompany or back up others. Tonight they were the stars.

Click on the video at the top of the story to watch Dumitriu and Tuski perform the piece at the recital. Naturally a louder instrument, Dumitriu’s bassoon avoided overpowering Tuski’s steady, precise guitar; rather it wrapped around and ascended above it, smooth yet hearty, carrying the melody, lifting the audience’s spirit.

Bassoon and guitar turn out to make a perfect blend, Dumitriu, a 25-year-old first-year student from Romania, wrote in an email message following the performance. He had already been playing with guitarist Tuski during the semester; Verdery suggested they perform a couple of pieces at the semester-end recital. Dumitriu arranged a bassoon-duet for the Piazzola piece, usually a guitar standard played with flute. The bassoon took the sound deeper.

“I think that bassoon and guitar work very well together,” Dumitriu reported, “and I will probably end up ‘stealing’ a lot of repertoire from the standard flute and guitar in the near future. ...

“The two instruments can have a dark mellow sound that I believe blends better than most instruments do with guitar. I don’t know why this combination is not done more often.”

“The Piazolla is one of the most popular pieces in the guitar chamber music repertoire,” Verdery wrote in an email. “It was originally written for flute and guitar. It has been done for violin and guitar even marimba. So it was a natural for a bassoonist to want to play it. In this case Bogi, as we call him, wanted to play with his friend Ian. Bogey did a wonderfully creative job in arranging it for bassoon as there are some technical challenges the bassoon encounters when playing a flute piece. I also encouraged Bogey to add a few ornaments and flourishes which he did marvelously. I think that Ian and Bogey have a wonderful rapport and will go on to do some great things together.”

Verdery-hatched pairings have a way of doing that after leaving Yale. Here’s a personal favorite, two guitar students who discovered chemistry together in Verdery’s program, then went on to a successful performing and recording career. No word on whether they’ll ever add a bassoon.

Meanwhile, click on this video to watch Dumitriu perform with another Yale guitarist, Lilit Mardiyan, this past December.

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