Insights from Jamie Dodd
We sat down with Jamie Dodd, bassoon soloist for our first concert to get his insights on Bassoon, the Hummel Bassoon Concerto and the QYS Concert in general.
Why did you initially choose the Bassoon?
Well initially I started on the piano when I was in grade 2 actually, and my old piano teacher, her husband played the bassoon. I was in a lesson one time and I heard the bassoon playing from another room, and I thought ‘wow! That sounds cool’, so I picked it up and had a try, and you know it’s stuck ever since, and I’m pretty thankful for that because I think it’s an incredible instrument. It is really underplayed as well.
Do you have a next big bassoon concerto that you want to play?
Actually, when I was talking to John Curro about which concerto I should play for this concert, it was between the Hummel and the Françaix Bassoon Concerto which is even more difficult. The reason I ended up going with the Hummel is because I have to play that when I fly to the States for all these auditions, so I thought it would be good to get more practice in. The Françaix is I think my favourite concerto written for the bassoon. It’s almost jazzy in how it’s written because it’s like composed in 1974 I think, so it’s very, very modern and it’s really cool. It also has a really small orchestra, like 11 members, and all the orchestration is wild and it’s just a really fun piece.
Difficulty wise, would you say that the Françaix is more challenging than the Hummel?
Yes, I think so. It is modern French music, and it’s very, very high and very fast. The Hummel is quite difficult, especially because it’s got all the fast arpeggios with huge jumps from low to high register, and big contrasts. The Hummel is very famous (the 1st and 3rd movements at least) amongst bassoonists for being very tricky, but I personally find the second movement to be harder just because again it’s got really large jumps between all the ranges, and at the slower speed it’s hard to nail the intonation, especially with the thin orchestration.
How do you find the Bassoon goes with projecting above the orchestra?
In this concerto it’s actually quite easy. It is a very simple melodic accompaniment, so it’s just like the strings chattering away in pianissimo. It’s very easy to come across.
In his lifetime, Hummel was widely recognised as an exceptional soloist, composer, conductor and teacher. In your opinion, what is it that made Hummel so famous during his lifetime, and in today’s orchestral repertoire, almost forgotten?
I think that one of the main factors as to why Hummel is forgotten in today’s orchestral repertoire is because of his very classical style of composing. He was on the brink between the classical and romantic period, but he was quite skewed towards the classical just in how he wrote the music at a time when music was moving towards romanticism. I think people wanting to listen to more classical music now would rather listen to Mozart or maybe even early Beethoven, or if they wanted to listen to more romantic music, they would listen to Brahms, Bruckner, or Strauss, or something like that. It’s disappointing really, because he has actually got some fantastic compositions, and I really enjoy this concerto, but it’s just not played, especially in youth orchestras.
What do you admire most about Hummel’s compositional style?
Hummel’s compositional style I personally find to be quite an operatic and soloistic style of writing, especially in this concerto. It’s something that I enjoy a lot actually. The clear solo line and simple melodic accompaniment make it very easy for the soloist to project, which as a bassoonist is something I’ve learned to appreciate as it isn’t the loudest instrument in the orchestra. I also quite like the many instances of call and response which Hummel implements in his concerto, particularly with the principal oboist, as it engages the orchestra as well; something which is always important, not just as a listener, but for someone that is playing in the orchestra.
Also on the program is Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, Prokofiev’s Cinderella Suite No.2, and a world premiere of local composer John Rotar’s Quetzalcoatl and the Priestess. What are your thoughts on the rest of the program for the concert?
I think it sounds like a very, very exciting and difficult program for QYS to play. I haven’t heard John Rotar’s work, because as you said, it’s a world premiere. I’m pretty good friends with John and I’ve heard lots of his compositions, so I’m sure that it will be an incredible piece of music. As I’ve heard from members of the orchestra, it is very difficult as well, yes, very difficult. In regards to the Lutoslawski, that’s one of my personal favourite 20th century compositions, and I’m quite jealous that I’m not able to play it as it’s just an incredible work. Again, very tricky for the whole orchestra, but QYS always manages to put on an incredible concert, so I’m sure it’ll be fantastic.