In an endless sea of piano and violin concertos, it’s nice to hear a different instrument in the limelight for a change. On Monday, March 13, Ben Glossop, principal bassoon with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra performs the Bassoon Concerto by the late Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz.
Morawetz wrote the piece in 1993 for American bassoon prodigy David McGill, who at 25 was already principal with the storied Cleveland Orchestra. Morawetz died in 2007 at the age of 90; in his youth he rejected the prevalent 12-tone and atonal ideologies to write music in a more tuneful, descriptive style (critics called him old-fashioned).
Glossop is a huge fan of this concerto, and can hardly wait to perform it in Southam Hall. His answers to the Red Chair’s 5 Questions reveal his appreciation for teachers, Bill Evans, and cheesecake:
1.Musician (in any genre) who particularly influenced or inspired me:
“All of my teachers were inspirational, but John Clouser really helped show me the way with so many things, like reeds, and how to practice. My high school singing teacher Micah Barnes taught me how to use my air, and resonate, and both men were really helpful in showing just how to get up there and enjoy performing, and in understanding the joys and emotional journey involved in making music.”
2: If I could borrow another artist’s talents for 24 hours, who would it be and why?
“I started my musical journey on the piano and then the guitar before focussing primarily on the bassoon, so I can see what goes into playing those instruments with so much facility that the whole of the musical world is laid out before you. I’d like to say someone like Bill Evans or Oskar Morawetz, but I’ll say my friend Frédéric Lacroix, who helped me prepare for this concert. He has the kind of mind and musical facility that makes it seem like he could do anything. I’m sure he would tell you, like I tell my students, that in music there is always a vast world more to know and achieve so be happy and work with what you’ve got and be hungry to learn more.”
3: If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be…
“I’d be a teacher, and I am. But to devote one’s career to helping people’s minds and spirits grow through knowledge is an incredible thought. It might be a bit like cooking though. I love doing it for eight hours a week, but eight hours a day might be more than I could handle.”
4.Most underrated composer or composition:
“I often answer such questions with Villa-Lobos or Leo Brouwer, but I’m going to go with Oskar Morawetz, whose Concerto I’m performing. There are a number of composers or writers who sometimes work in relative obscurity due to the tastes of the day, and Morawetz is a wonderfully modern composer who was oddly not off-the-wall enough during the 1960s to the 1990s, when modern music was very conceptual. But his music is really well crafted and very lyrical, and really runs the gamut of emotions and styles. I think he will likely grow in importance as time goes on.”
5.Three people, living or deceased, I’d invite to a dinner party:
“I’ve often wondered what musicians would think if they could hear the music of the future, so since we’d be speaking different languages and would be forced to jam together with the one language we all had in common, I’ll say Bill Evans, Bach and Tchaikovsky. Then I’d hope that a translator might show up with a chocolate cheesecake.”
(Bonus track: world’s most famous bassoon solo. Sorry, Stravinsky.)