Some words about my Airbender premiere:
From Clinton White of Limelight:
‘The CSO showcases three outstanding Australian composers in this satisfying concert.
In August 2015, The Observer reported fears that the bassoon had become an “endangered species”, noting that “[a] campaign called Save the Bassoon now aims to remind the public of the importance of this engaging member of the woodwind section and to encourage young musicians to take it up.”
With the instrument in the mind of young Australian composer, Holly Harrison, and in the hands of brilliant bassoonist, Matthew Kneale (described by Matthew Hindson as the “rock-god of the bassoon”), its future is rock-solid safe.
Far from being buried in the woodwind section, the bassoon goes well and truly front and centre in Harrison’s high-energy Airbender for bassoon and string quartet. The composer, who plays drums and percussion in the improvised rock duo Tabua-Harrison, says her piece “imagines the bassoon as a type of sonic airbender, conjuring up an array of sounds driven by air! … [and] is further inspired by slap bass solos, prog-rock guitar ‘shredding’, and bluegrass sonorities.”
Giving the work its world premiere performance, Kneale rose to the challenge fearlessly, delivering all the work’s in-built qualities. He built boundless energy through its driving rhythms, raced along the keys with seemingly effortless virtuosity, and showcased his instrument’s amazing agility and incredible range. The quartet’s part, played here by the Omega Ensemble, is quite understated, giving the bassoon free rein, but pouring a solid foundation, maintaining the rhythms for Kneale’s musical gymnastics.’
Read the full article here.
Below images courtesy of Canberra Symphony Orchestra.
And from Helen Musa of City News:
‘First up was “Airbender for bassoon and string quartet”, by Holly Harrison, who was present on this occasion to talk about the work briefly, as were the other two composers.
The audience was asked to view the bassoon as the “dark horse” of instruments, but there was nothing obscure about star soloist Matthew Kneale, who teased every bit of colour from his chosen instrument in an exciting, urgent performance.
After a solo opening, the Omega Strings came in to provide the driving rhythms to (largely) a dancing dialogue between strings and bassoon, which eventually slowed momentarily before Harrison’s jazz-like inclinations revealed themselves in a lively exchange between the bassoon and violins.
This composer has repeatedly proved wrong the old cliché that there is no humour in music with her mischievous, quirky experiments and the usical conversation turned to what sounded like a dialogue of ships horns sounding in a fog, before returning to the energetic, driving rhythms which characterised the composition.’
Read the full article here.