Another car-trip life-saver

August 29, 2016 at 12:51 pm

I mentioned yesterday that I’ve managed to survive many hours in the car this summer with my children. If you have kids and a car, you know how painful long trips can be. Movies and music help pass the time, but often the content of children’s media is so  stupid that you find yourself preferring the bickering and whining.

No so with this CD of the music of Daniel Dorff. Today’s piece tells the Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. The story is narrated, but the playful music practically tells the story on its own, like a tone poem. The slow tortoise has its own theme (0:12) played by a contrabassoon (an often ignored sub-bass instrument for which Dorff composed another fabulously funky piece.) The hare’s theme is played (0:19) on an alto clarinet (I think …), silly and spirited (and calling to mind Till Eulenspiegel, whose theme was on the same instrument.) Our favorite, though, is when the hare falls asleep, and the music paints its snoring (3:24).

Besides this story, the CD has two other fables plus a few other stories which will hold everyone’s attention and keep the car ride sane.


You probably don’t know this piece – Bassoon you will!

December 10, 2015 at 10:30 am

Today’s piece was selected mainly so I could use that million-dollar pun in the title.

Orchestral instruments notoriously get used in uncreative ways: the trumpets always play the fanfares; the flutes play the part of dancing sprites; the basses always play, well, the bass line. The truth of the matter is, any top-knotch player is capable of a broad range of sounds and styles on his/her instrument. Trumpets can be sweet and lyrical; flutes can be aggressive and grizzly; and basses … well, they really do stick to the bass line, with few exceptions.


So when was the last time you thought, “I want to hear a beautiful instrumental aria … on the Bassoon!” Let me go ahead and guess – never. The bassoon is that bumbling bedpost of an instrument, the one who plays the Grandfather in “Peter and the Wolf“, the one that Stravinsky gave the awkward opening motif in “The Rite of Spring.” Could it really be suitable for a lovely lyric aria? Samuel Coleridge-Taylor thought so! Prepare to fall in love all over again … with the Bassoon!