Woodwind instruments — flutes, oboes, saxophones, bassoons and clarinets — are usually positioned in the last row of an orchestra. But for the Week Six edition of Into the Music with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, principal bassoonist Jeffrey Robinson, Rita and Dunbar VanDerveer Symphony Principal Chair for Flute Richard Sherman, and principal clarinetist Eli Eban plan to bring their reeds front and center.
“We want to take this opportunity to show what woodwinds bring to the game,” Robinson said. “We are a part of the mix, too, and what we bring to it is a color that tends to blend and be featured in different ways than the front.”
Robinson, Eban and Sherman will perform “What About Woodwinds?” at 8:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4, on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch. The program features Beethoven’s Duo No. 2 WoO 27 for clarinet and bassoon, William Hurlstone’s Trio in G Minor for bassoon, clarinet and piano, and Joachim Andersen’s “Pieces for Solo Flute.”
The performance will begin with the Beethoven. Those duos, stylistically, belong to Beethoven’s earliest creative period, though both Robinson and Eban said there is no way to confirm if Beethoven actually composed them or if the duos were only dedicated to him.
“Maybe Beethoven wrote them, maybe he didn’t — nobody really knows,” Robinson said. “The style is apparent enough that no one knows who it could be if not Beethoven.”
Even with the duos’ lively character and “skilful play with timbre,” Eban said they are pieces “performed for fun at home” more than they are ever played as major pieces of chamber music for “any kind of audience.”
“You don’t hear them performed in public very often, which is sad because I think it shows the clarinet and bassoon at their best in terms of woodwind color, similar to what Beethoven does for those instruments even in his full orchestral compositions,” Eban said.
The selection by William Hurlstone is one of only a handful of works written for clarinet, bassoon and piano, one Robinson described as a “19th-century British Romantic piece.” Hurlstone began composing at age 9, and went on to win a scholarship to study piano and composition at the Royal College of Music, where he wrote the trio. However, at 30 years old, he died of bronchial asthma, something Robinson said the composer struggled with his entire life.
It’s a harder fight to get there, but I think this performance shows that no matter what, a little bit of a labor of love like this is important for us to do for the Chautauqua community,” Robinson said. “I know they need this music, too.”
“We never got to see how his talents would have matured,” Robinson said. “Throughout his short life, he was always thought of as the top of the class, every piece well regarded. I feel so fortunate we can bring this to the attention of this community for what is most likely the first time.”
Nikki Melville, School of Music Piano Program co-chair, will join Eban and Robinson for the performance.
“It’s a fuller orchestration due to the piano part, which is far from just an accompaniment to the other instruments,” Eban said. “It’s almost like she is playing a mini concerto for piano. It’s a beautiful addition to an already charming piece.”
Robinson, Eban and Melville will perform their selections live in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. Sherman, who will perform Andersen’s “Pieces for Solo Flute,” will join the livestream from his home in Michigan.
Robinson said the opportunity to rehearse and perform live on the grounds provided a “much-needed” sense of normalcy to his summer.
“It’s a harder fight to get there, but I think this performance shows that no matter what, a little bit of a labor of love like this is important for us to do for the Chautauqua community,” Robinson said. “I know they need this music, too.”