Comeout to hear the music

Published on Thu, Sep 23, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Come out to hear the music

By Jack Kintner

Blaine Bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann will be making his second local appearance as he joins New York pianist Richard Bishop and New York Philharmonic Orchestra principals Joseph Robinson and Robert Langevin this Saturday, September 25, for the Performing Arts Association’s “Northern Lights” concert.

The concert will be performed in Blaine’s Performing Arts Center and will feature a display of Blaine sculptor Bob McDermott’s bronzes in the foyer. It’s as good an all-star lineup as one could have anywhere, and two of the five artists live in Blaine.

The program includes a number of sonatas scored or transcribed for various combinations of flute, oboe, bassoon and piano in compositions that range from the late baroque intricacies of Georg Telemann’s Trio Sonata for Oboe, Flute Bassoon and Piano to Mozart’s Duet for Bassoon and Cello (K 292) transcribed for Bassoon. The studied warmth of French composers Camille Saint-Saëns and Francis Poulenc is balanced by the contemporary sound of the British 20th-century composer Madeline Dring.

Kuuskmann, a naturalized Estonian who moved to Blaine last year with his wife Tiiu and young son William is undoubtedly the best bassoon player for his age (33) in the world. His credits read like a man twice his age, and he’s in demand not only in classical venues around the world but also by composers who literally compete with each other to write compositions he’ll agree to play. So far, six concertos have been written by the cream of the composing crop for Kuuskmann for his solo performances.

If he looks sleepy it’s because he just got home, usually from a European concert or maybe a performance in Japan. You’d expect him to be about as accessible as Mick Jagger, but if you happen to drop by their Bayview Street house you’ll just see a happy young couple with a blue-eyed blonde rug rat who seems to be part monkey, part explorer and all boy.

Kuskmann has music degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Yale, and lived in New York for the same reason country music stars live in Nashville: that’s where it’s at, “it” being the rather close-knit infrastructure that generates gigs, recording contracts and publicity.

Tiiu’s careers in dance and interior design flourished in New York but both felt it was no place to raise children, and when William came along Blaine’s the lucky spot they chose to live. They seem to be as happy to be here as Sandy Wolf and the rest of the people behind the Performing Arts Association are to have them, to say nothing of the overflow crowd that attended his first local concert last June at Grace Lutheran Church.

He performed for about an hour and a half without stopping – he claims to hate intermissions – without once playing anything from Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” the Russian children’s story where various orchestral instruments represent the characters.

“The bassoon, of course, is Grandpa in the story,” said Kuuskmann, “and is usually the first time kids hear that beautiful bassoon sound.” He also noted, in a story he often tells in solo concerts, that Stravinsky’s famous 1913 ballet score “Rites of Spring” begins with a long bassoon solo. Whether or not it was what caused the riot that the piece’s initial performance ignited outside a Paris concert hall, Kuuskmann didn’t say.

He’ll be playing with New York pianist Richard Bishop, once violinist Isaac Stern’s accompanist and the winner of many “best accompanist” awards at violin recitals all over the world. He and Kuuskmann met at the New York Lyric Chamber Music Society where Bishop is artist in residence and Kuuskmann, along with Robinson, is a frequent soloist.

Robinson, an English and economics double major as an undergraduate at Davidson College and a Fulbright Scholar, was hired in 1977 by Zubin Mehta for the New York Philharmonic, an orchestra also once conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He’s been principal oboist for 22 years.

Before joining the New York Philharmonic, Langevin was been principal flautist of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Associate Principal for the Montreal Symphony. He and Robinson will be offering master classes at Western Washington University earlier in the day.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, and are available at Smuggler’s Inn, the Visitor’s Information Center, Steamers, Semiahmoo Resort, at Village Books in Fairhaven or by phone at 332-6484. For more information call Sandy Wolf at 371-0141.