Nationallyrenowned bassoonist to perform

Published on Thu, Jun 3, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Nationally renowned bassoonist to perform

By Jack Kintner

There are perhaps a half-dozen bassoon players in the world who can make a living as a soloist, and one of them, by far the youngest, lives here in Blaine. Next Wednesday evening on June 9, Blaine gets its first chance to hear him at a free, hour-long concert he’ll play at Grace Lutheran Church beginning at 7 p.m.

Bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann moved to Blaine last September with his wife Tiiu and 23-month-old son William. Tiiu, pronounced “Tee-you,” is of Estonian descent but grew up in Vancouver, B.C.

The couple previously lived in New York where she pursued a career in ballet and interior design while he taught at the Mannes School of Music. With his solo career taking off they decided to make a break last fall from big city life and ended up in Blaine, close to her family but still in the small-town setting they’d been
searching for.

Kuuskmann, 33 and from Estonia, came to the U.S. 14 years ago to attend San Jose State University. Two years later Yale University offered him a full scholarship to pursue a three-year program in performance certification. He went on from there to earn a bachelor’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music, after which Yale awarded him a master’s in bassoon performance based on his earlier work.
A prodigy who began playing piano as a six-year-old, Kuuskmann also played clarinet but switched to bassoon at 16 when a teacher asked him “Who needs another clarinet player?”

“Bassoons are old,” Kuuskmann said, “and were developed in the middle ages.” Basically a folded nine-foot wooden tube made of Canadian maple, it’s best known as representing the character of Grandpa in Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

Kuuskmann is well beyond that, thriving on the technical challenges of playing difficult passages well. He’s one of the few players able to perform “Sequenza,” by the Italian composer Luciano Berio. “It requires circular breathing,” he said, “which means never letting the sound stop throughout the piece. You inhale through your nose while exhaling through your mouth.” The composition takes 20 minutes to play.

Wednesday’s program also features local pianist Mary Anne Unrau and includes works by Gershwin, Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, the Bassoon sonata by Camille Saint-Saëns and Aria Number 5 by Hector Villa-Lobos.

Kuuskmann said that he likes “to talk to the audience a lot. I hope we can get lots of kids there because it’s a good concert for them, not too long and lots of fun.”
Performance Info –
Wednesday, June 9
7 p.m. at Grace Lutheran church
702 G Street, Blaine
No charge.