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New York Bassoon Quartet

The original members of The New York Bassoon Quartet, Bernadette Zirkuli, Lauren Goldstein, Julie Feves and Alice Black met while attending the Juilliard School of Music in the late 1960's and early 70's. We graduated as well-trained, fully proficient players with few opportunities awaiting us. The bassoon sections of the five major symphony orchestras were filled, and openings were rare in other orchestras across the country. Women were in some of the major orchestras, but they were mostly string players or harpists; the Boston Symphony was the first to accept a woman wind player, a flutist, in the 1960's. With the male dominance of the classical scene at the time, women had to create their own opportunities in order to show off their craft.

While free-lancing at an opera engagement in 1974, the four of us appeared together as the bassoon section. I remember looking at the group and saying, "Hey ­ we ought to form a bassoon quartet." Well, that's what we decided to do. I had been impressed with the Bubonic Bassoon Quartet, a highly talented group of men performing in the 1960's in Boston. They were innovative and created many arrangements to feature the group. I gathered music from the Bubonic Quartet, and we worked on some of our own arrangements. Seeking original material for bassoon quartet, I also approached a number of composers and personally met with them to demonstrate the possibilities of the instrument. Many composers shy away from the bassoon, but as you will see by this collection, the sound, the range, and facility of the bassoon attracted several major composers.

Vaclav Nelhybel, Katherine Hoover and Rudolph Palmer were some of the composers who wrote for us, and this led to the production of our first recording, an LP released by Leonarda in 1980. By that time, Alice had left our quartet, and Jane Taylor from the Dorian Quintet had joined us. In the LP recording, we also included two existing original compositions for bassoon quartet, one by Alvin Brehm and one by Peter Schickele. These five original works are presented on this CD, and represent the "THEN" part of this recording's title, "NOW AND THEN."

In 1994, we are asked to participate in WNYC radio's 50th anniversary celebration by the station's music director, John Schaefer. The station had commissioned an illustrious group of composers to write works for the occasion, and fortunately for us, John Corigliano was asked to compose for our group. The commissioned works were presented in June at a Gala Concert in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center as part of the celebration. The Corigliano work is a gem, and I knew we had to record it, so we looked for other works to supplement our original LP recording. We chose two more works originally written for bassoon quartet: Schuman's Quartettino, a lively four-movement work written in 1939; and Harbison's Canzonetta, composed for the Bubonic group in 1962 while he was at Princeton. The Canzonetta is a difficult work and was very challenging for us to record. It's hard to believe the piece is nearly 40 years old. To these we added two arrangements: Christopher Weait's Suite of Early American Tunes, a wonderfully spirited work, and the Prokofieff piece, originally written for piano, but arranged for four bassoons by the composer in 1915.

We rehearsed and recorded the last week of January, 1999. Luckily, all of us were simultaneously available. We had such good luck with all the many facets of recording. The weather cooperated as well because it was a mild day, so heating pipes didn't bang. When we finished, the night of January 31st, the second full moon of the month ­the BLUE MOON ­ shone brightly. Once in a BLUE MOON...that's when we get together. The members of our quartet have all had very separate and successful careers. Our lives are laden with responsibilities to our respective partners and children, and Julie now lives in California, but it is always rewarding to play together and to explore interpretations free from the constraints of a conductor. When the recording was over, we all suffered quartet withdrawal. The camaraderie was intense, and took on a life of its own. We all found that we missed each other, and look forward to our next project. In the meantime, we hope this historic CD collection will take on a life of its own and be enjoyed by many for years to come.

--Bernadette Zirkuli

Bernadette Zirkuli (founder of the New York Bassoon Quartet), a native New Yorker and graduate of the High School of Music and Art, received her BM and MS degrees at the Juilliard School of Music. She received a Walter Naumberg Fellowship for teaching woodwind quintets at Juilliard, joining the Pre-College faculty in 1968 and remaining there until the birth of her daughter in 1982. During these early years she was a member of La Musica, a Renaissance trio which performed in costume playing recorders, shawms, krummhorns and small percussion instruments. Bernadette was an active chamber performer with the New York Chamber Soloists and also toured with the Stuttgart Ballet in the U.S. and the P.D.Q. Bach orchestra. For many years, she was principal bassoonist with the Musica Aterna orchestra, the Little Orchestra Society and the Composers Conference for Contemporary Music. She presented two solo recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1975 and 1977. Currently an associate member of both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Opera orchestras, she is also a member of the American Ballet Theater orchestra.

Lauren Goldstein Stubbs is principal bassoonist for the Opera Orchestra of New York, Riverside Symphony, and the P.D.Q. Bach orchestra. She is co-principal and contrabassoonist in the American Composers Orchestra and the Westchester Philharmonic. A member of Parnassus and the American Ballet Theatre orchestra, Laurie also performs with the Eos Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, San Francisco Ballet and the Paul Taylor Dance Company and has performed with numerous contemporary music groups such as the New Music Con-sort, Speculum Musicae, and the Group for Contemporary Music. She has been a chamber music coach and performer at the Chamber Music Conference of the East since 1982, and has recorded for CBS, Columbia, Vanguard, Telarc, CRI and Musical Heritage Society in addition to this Leonarda recording.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Queens College, Jane Taylor has performed with scores of organizations, among them the Symphony of the Air, New York Philharmonic, Musica Sacra, Little Orchestra Society, P.D.Q. Bach, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, N.B.C. Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, American Opera and the Marlboro Music Festival. She was principal bassoonist of the New York City Opera, and is currently a member of the American Symphony Orchestra, Long Island Philharmonic and Lake George Opera. Formerly with the Yale Summer School of Music, she now teaches bassoon and chamber music at the Mannes College of Music, Brooklyn College's Conservatory of Music, Montclair State University, the 92nd Street Y and the Lucy Moses School of the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center. As a founding member of the Dorian Wind Quintet, in residence at Hunter College, Jane has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Julie Feves has performed extensively as soloist, chamber performer and orchestra principal in music ranging from the baroque to the avant garde. She has appeared with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, American Symphony, New Jersey Symphony and the Aspen Festival orchestras, and has performed contemporary music with such groups as the Cal Arts New Century Players, Speculum Musicae and the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. She often performs as a guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Performing on early bassoons, she has worked with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Los Angeles Baroque Orchestra, the Mozartean Players and the Pemucio Ensemble. Julie is principal bassoonist for the New West Symphony and the Long Beach Symphony Orchestras. Her Baroque group, Bach Circle, performs frequently on concert series and at music festivals. In the summers, Ms. Feves performs with Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, Oregon and Music From Angel Fire in New Mexico, as well as the Bravo Colorado festival in Vail, Colorado. Ms. Feves is Assistant Dean and Director of the Performance programs at California Institute of the Arts.




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