Mysteriously, the combination of a single flute and a single bassoon is a relative oddity in classical chamber music. There is no apparent reason to explain this phenomenon, as the dulcet tones of the flute blend gracefully with the complex clarity of the bassoon. Not since the early 18th century, when bass and treble melodies glinted side-by-side in the perfect refraction of the filigreed Baroque style, have more than a few composers given serious thought to the pairing. Notable exceptions, however, stood up to be counted: the great Ludwig van Beethoven, in his extreme youth, did give the idea pause, as did Gaetano Donizetti a few decades later.
The aristocracy of 18th- and 19th-century Europe supported music and musicians with money and resources in staggering amounts. It was in this atmosphere, while still living in Bonn, Germany and already employed as a musician to the Elector of Cologne that a still-teenaged Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) became the piano teacher of Maria Anna Wilhelmina von Westerholt-Gysenberg, daughter of the Baron von Westerholt-Gysenberg. The Baron himself was considered an accomplished bassoonist, and Anna's brother Wilhelm was a fine flutist. It seems to have been for this intimate family setting that Beethoven wrote the Trio for piano, flute, and bassoon, WoO 37 sometime around 1885 or 1886. In both the title and in the style of composition, Beethoven grants primacy to the keyboard instrument, writing for the piano as if the flute and bassoon were not much more than go-along companions. Clearly, Beethoven had every confidence in his pupil!
Throughout the first movement Beethoven positions the wind instruments principally in supporting roles, allowing these voices to parallel the piano while adding a melodic sustenance that the early piano would have lacked. In the second movement we note young Beethoven already beginning to experiment with movement form, creatively manipulating convention. The third movement opens with a merry dance. Through the course of the variations Beethoven invites each instrument in turn to display their prowess, consistently challenging each to make the original tune brighter and more lithe with each successive variation.
It would not be fair to attempt to place Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) amongst the ranks of the greatest great composers, but it would be outright heresy to suggest that he be counted as anything less than the finest and most influential composer of Italian opera in his day. Yet he also wrote intimately personal music for small chamber settings of instruments.
The impetus behind Donizetti's chamber music came from his mentor and teacher, Simon Mayr (1763-1845). Throughout the first four decades of the 19th century, the Bavarian-born Mayr was the reigning musician in Donizetti's native Bergamo, Italy. There were few musical posts within the city of Bergamo that Mayr did not hold. So it was that when Mayr took an interest in the musical development of Donizetti, the young lad had the full resources of the city's music-making establishment at his disposal.
The exact background of Trio in F major for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano is hard to trace. It appears that the work began as simply Larghetto composed at an unknown date in the early 19th century, and much later published as Trio in F major. In point of fact, Donizetti delighted in writing works for a combination of flute, piano, and bass instrument, or for treble and bass instruments with piano, many of which are titled Largo or Larghetto, and which are paired with a faster Allegro or Polonaise.
A German expatriate in Copenhagen, Denmark, Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832) consistently demonstrated a predilection for the flute. Kuhlau himself was a pianist par excellence - not a flutist - and he spent a lifetime composing not only art pieces for professional performers but also works for younger, developing pianists. Still the fact remains that the flute was a favourite instrument of the Danish populous, and so a large percentage of Kuhlau's music includes the flute.
Ultimately one of the last works he composed, Kuhlau's Trio in G major, op. 119 was originally composed for two flutes and piano in 1832. Published after death in its original instrumentation, the work soon appeared in a version for flute, cello, and piano, as well as an option for flute, violin, and piano. Whether or not these later versions were issued posthumously with the blessing of the late composer is a matter of speculation. Still, the matter is irrelevant! Not only do these lovely variations exist, but they function within an accepted practice for the day.
Throughout the lush opening movement, Kuhlau places the piano against the team of the two melodic instruments. Nonetheless the piano dominates! In handing over each of the five main melodies to the twin voices of flute and bassoon, the piano remains in touch with the texture by adding delicate embroideries and lifting the sustained melodic lines right to the end of the movement.
The beauty of the second movement lies in its straightforward simplicity, overt melodicism, and sincerity of decoration. In Rondo-Allegro, the motion is dance-like, the spirit is infectious. Dancing through a succession of brilliant fleet-of-foot steps, the music trips from one melody to the next, lightly shifting keys and moods as the moment demands, but always returning back to the surety of the first theme, finally decorated in the close moments with a final effervescent flourish.
Mary C. J. Byrne, Ph.D.
Hailed by the Fanfare magazine for her "imaginative and colorful interpretive approach", Katerina Zaitseva has performed in the United States, Germany, Luxemburg, France, South Korea, Japan, and Russia including appearances in the Moscow State Conservatory Hall, John F. Kennedy Center, Steinway Hall, and many European festivals. She was also privileged to play for the King of Spain, Juan Carlos, at the opening of the Meadows Museum of Arts in Dallas. She has been featured as soloist with orchestras including Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Meadows Symphony Orchestra, Corvallis Symphony, Lewisville Lake Symphony, and Rapides Symphony Orchestra among others. Her recordings of Glazunov's Concerto No. 2 with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra and Piano Duets by Schumann and Brahms with Nikita Fitenko, both released by the Classical Records, have garnered international critical acclaim. Katerina is a winner of national competitions and awards including the MTNA Competition, SMU Concerto Competition, Von Mickwitz Prize in Piano, and the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award among others. Prior to settling in Washington D.C. area, she was an Artist in Residence at Louisiana College. She is also the Executive Director of the Washington International Piano Festival and the Associate Executive Director of the Louisiana International Piano Competition. She holds her Master of Music from the Southern Methodist University, the Bachelor of Music magna cum laude from the University of North Texas, and Diploma from the Music School affiliated with the Moscow State Conservatory in Russia.
Dennette Derby McDermott made her European debut in 1992 in the Czech Republic with the Czech premiere of Jindrich Feld's Introduzione, Toccato e Fuga. As a recipient of the Magale Endowed Professorship, at Northwestern State University of Louisiana, where she is professor of flute and director of graduate studies, in 1995 she participated in a master course, studying with Arnost Bourek and taught at the Janacek Academie of Music as a part of an Exchange. She has presented recitals in Brno, Czech Republic, Bratislava, Slovakia and throughout the United States, including numerous performances at National Flute Association Conventions. She was a winner of the Conventions Performers Competition in 1994, 1996, and 1999. In 1998 she was awarded the Donald F. Derby Endowed Professorship which funded her CD "Solo Czech Flute". In 2003 she received an Arts Link Grant which funded the first Slovak Flute Festival held in Bratislava, Slovakia. In 2006 she was the recipient of the Magale Endowed Professorship and the NSU Enrichment Grant, that funded performances of the NSU faculty woodwind trio "Trio de Llano", at the University of New Mexico, The Conservatory of music in Bratislava, Slovakia and Victoria, BC. She has been published by The Flutist Quarterly, Pan Pipes, The American Piper and is featured regularly by Flute Talk, with articles on Czech music. As an active researcher, she has compiled and published the Czech flute sonatas of Jiri Cart. She holds a bachelor of music degree in performance from Michigan State University, a master of music in flute performance from the University of Michigan and a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of North Texas.
Douglas Bakenhus, Associate Professor of Bassoon at Northwestern State University, and Conductor of the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony, holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and has completed additional graduate courses in bassoon studies and conducting at the University of Michigan. He is an active performer in several professional orchestras throughout Louisiana and Texas including such ensembles as the Shreveport Symphony, Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, and Longview Symphony. In addition, Dr. Bakenhus regularly performs on the baroque bassoon with Ars Lyrica in Houston, Texas and other baroque ensembles. In 2006 he was the recipient of the Magale Endowed Professorship and the NSU Enrichment Grant that funded performances of the NSU faculty woodwind trio "Trio de Llano", at the University of New Mexico, The Conservatory of music Bratislava, Slovakia and Victoria, BC. As a conductor, in addition to being director of Orchestral Studies at Northwestern State University, Dr. Bakenhus has been the music director of the Northeast Texas Symphony since 2002, and has served as music director of the Austin Philharmonic from 2001-2004. Throughout his teaching career, he has remained active as a guest conductor, clinician, and bassoonist with recent appearances conducting the San Pedro Sula Chamber Orchestra in Honduras, as well as The Southwest Regional Youth Honor Orchestra in Monroe, Louisiana, the East Baton Rouge All-Parish Youth Orchestra, and several youth orchestras in Texas.