Metamorphosis - Album Notes

by David A. Wells

Libby Larsen stud­ied the­ory and com­po­si­tion at Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota, earn­ing her PhD in 1978. While still a stu­dent, she co-​founded the Min­nesota Com­posers Forum (now the Amer­i­can Com­posers Forum) to help con­nect com­posers with per­form­ers and com­mu­ni­ties. Larsen has served as composer-​in-​residence for the Min­nesota Orches­tra, the Char­lotte Sym­phony Orches­tra, and the Col­orado Sym­phony Orches­tra, and is the recip­i­ent of both an NEA Fel­low­ship and a Grammy award. Larsen has writ­ten music in myr­iad gen­res, and often weaves threads of Amer­i­can pop­u­lar music into her works. She is an ardent advo­cate for women in music, and fre­quently writes on female sub­jects and uses texts by women authors.

The Inter­na­tional Dou­ble Reed Soci­ety com­mis­sioned Larsen to write her Con­cert­piece for Bas­soon and Piano. Bas­soon­ist Ben­jamin Kamins and pianist Jason Hardink gave the pre­mière per­for­mance at the 2008 IDRS Con­fer­ence in Provo, Utah. Larsen writes that she envi­sioned the three-​movement work as com­men­tary by a “minstrel/​poet” (the bas­soon) on our culture’s expres­sive­ness. This expres­sive­ness, she says, is “a deeply lyri­cal nar­ra­tive com­bined with a syn­co­pated, per­cus­sive, multi-​inflected, and dri­ving nature.” This inter­play between lyri­cism and per­cus­sive syn­co­pa­tion is preva­lent in the piece’s two outer move­ments. Larsen’s Con­cert­piece was one of the required works for the 2010 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion, held at the Ober­lin Con­ser­va­tory of Music.


Fran­cisco Mignone was born in Brazil to Ital­ian immi­grant par­ents and received his ini­tial musi­cal train­ing from his father Alfe­rio, a pro­fes­sional flutist. Fran­cisco stud­ied com­po­si­tion at the con­ser­va­to­ries of São Paulo and Milan, and then held a suc­ces­sion of teach­ing posi­tions and music direc­tor­ships in Brazil. Mignone’s early works dis­play the influ­ence of his Ital­ian her­itage and edu­ca­tion, but in the late 1920s he became very inter­ested in the idea of musi­cal nation­al­ism. For the next thirty years he drew sig­nif­i­cant inspi­ra­tion from a vari­ety of Brazil­ian folk and pop­u­lar tra­di­tions before shift­ing to a more diverse com­po­si­tional style in the 1960s. In this late period, Mignone still used some nation­al­is­tic ele­ments, but also explored seri­al­ism, tone clus­ters, and other atonal techniques.

The Sonata No. 1 para dois fagots (1961) comes from this later more eclec­tic period, but is entirely tonal and employs pop­u­lar Brazil­ian forms. The first move­ment is a sprightly Alle­gro in E major that occa­sion­ally slips into moments of pathos and melan­choly. The mid­dle move­ment takes the form of a Mod­inha, a sen­ti­men­tal Brazil­ian love song. Mignone labels the final move­ment Chor­inho, a type of pop­u­lar Brazil­ian instru­men­tal music also known as choro. Although choro means “cry” or “lament,” the music that bears this label is usu­ally quick, happy, and vir­tu­osic. This and the atonal Sonata No. 2 para dois fagotes (1967) are just two of more than thirty of Mignone’s works that fea­ture the bas­soon. His large out­put for the instru­ment was a result of his close asso­ci­a­tion with Noël Devos, a French bas­soon­ist who moved to Rio de Janiero in 1952 and cham­pi­oned music for bas­soon by Brazil­ian composers.


Nancy Gal­braith began play­ing piano and clar­inet in her youth in Pitts­burgh, PA. She earned degrees in com­po­si­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ties of Ohio and West Vir­ginia, and also stud­ied piano, organ, and com­po­si­tion at Carnegie Mel­lon. Gal­braith joined the fac­ulty at Carnegie Mel­lon in 1986, and is today the school’s Chair of Com­po­si­tion. Her out­put cov­ers a mul­ti­tude of both sec­u­lar and sacred gen­res, includ­ing works for solo organ, choir, orches­tra, wind ensem­ble, brass band, and var­i­ous cham­ber ensem­bles. Gal­braith writes that her com­po­si­tional style shows the influ­ence of Chris­t­ian litur­gi­cal music and West­ern clas­si­cal music, and also incor­po­rates ele­ments of var­i­ous types of pop­u­lar and tra­di­tional musics from around the world. Also active as a per­former, Gal­braith serves as Organ­ist and Music Direc­tor at Pittsburgh’s Christ Lutheran Church.

Gal­braith ded­i­cated her Sonata for Bas­soon and Piano to bas­soon­ist Eric Gold­man. Gold­man and pianist Donna Amato pre­miered the piece on Feb­ru­ary 26, 2005 at Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­sity. The first of the piece’s three move­ments is bouncy and ani­mated, with a great deal of syn­co­pa­tion and fre­quent changes of meter. The sec­ond move­ment has a core of fren­zied activ­ity, fea­tur­ing long arpeg­giated sweeps from both instru­ments, and big, pow­er­ful octaves (marked quin­tu­ple forte) in the piano. This is book­ended by lyri­cal, almost wist­ful, slow, quiet sec­tions. Per­pet­ual motion under­lies the final move­ment; the rapid inter­play of the two parts slows only for a brief cadenza. Galbraith’s Sonata was included in the required reper­toire for the 2007 Meg Quigley Vivaldi Com­pe­ti­tion held in Ithaca, NY.


Leslie Bas­sett was born on a ranch in cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia in 1923. He entered the com­po­si­tion pro­gram at Fresno State Uni­ver­sity but World War II inter­rupted his stud­ies. He served as trom­bon­ist and arranger for the U.S. Army’s 13th Armored Divi­sion Band dur­ing the war, and then returned to school. He earned both his Master’s and Doc­tor­ate in com­po­si­tion under the tute­lage of Ross Lee Finney at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan, with fur­ther instruc­tion from Arthur Honeg­ger and Nadia Boulanger as a Ful­bright Fel­low in Paris. In 1951 Bas­sett joined the com­po­si­tion fac­ulty at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan. Dur­ing his forty-​year aca­d­e­mic career, Bas­sett received the Pulitzer Prize, the Prix de Rome, and two Guggen­heim Fel­low­ships. He retired from teach­ing in 1991, but has remained active as a composer.

Among the works Bas­sett has pub­lished since his retire­ment are Wood and Reed Trans­formed (1998) for bas­soon and wind ensem­ble, and the one on this disc, Meta­mor­phoses (1992) for solo bas­soon. Meta­mor­phoses con­sists of eight move­ments, each of which is inspired by a dif­fer­ent orches­tral excerpt for bas­soon. These excerpts come from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikovsky’s Sym­phony #4, three of Beethoven’s sym­phonies, Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, and Chabrier’s España. Rather than quot­ing any of the excerpts in their entirety, Bas­sett uses them as launch­ing points for free explo­rations of var­i­ous com­po­si­tional or per­for­mance tech­niques. The piece was com­mis­sioned by friends of L. Hugh Cooper, long­time Pro­fes­sor of Bas­soon at Michi­gan, and pre­miered by Wendy Rose.


Willard Somers Elliot was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1926. He began his musi­cal stud­ies early, start­ing on piano and also pick­ing up the clar­inet before switch­ing to bas­soon at age 14. He attended the East­man School, where he stud­ied bas­soon with Vin­cent Pezzi and com­po­si­tion with Bernard Rogers. Elliot became a mem­ber of the Hous­ton Sym­phony in 1946 and played with the Dal­las Sym­phony from 1951 until 1964. Elliot’s pri­mary orches­tral posi­tion was that of Prin­ci­pal Bas­soon of the Chicago Sym­phony, which he held from 1964 until his retire­ment in 1997. After step­ping down from the sym­phony Elliot returned to his native Fort Worth, where he taught at Texas Chris­t­ian Uni­ver­sity until his death in 2000.

Although he was pri­mar­ily an orches­tral per­former, Elliot also devoted con­sid­er­able energy to com­po­si­tion. Unsur­pris­ingly, the bulk of his out­put was for his own instru­ment in var­i­ous set­tings. His works include: Six Por­tuguese Songs for bas­soon and piano; Three Duets for flute and bas­soon; Poem for bas­soon and string quar­tet; three pieces for bas­soon and orches­tra; and many mixed cham­ber works. Elliot per­formed his own Con­certo for Bas­soon and Orches­tra with the CSO twice — in 1965 under Seiji Ozawa and later with Jean Mar­ti­non. Elliot’s Sonata was one of his last pub­lished works. He wrote the two-​movement piece in 1998, ded­i­cat­ing it to one of his then-​students, Colom­bian bas­soon­ist Maria Lucia Gar­avito Arciniegas.


Pro­duced by Nico­lasa Kuster with assis­tance from Paul Lyons, Burr Cochran Phillips, and David A. Wells

Record­ing Engi­neer: Alberto Her­nan­dez

Recorded at Fan­tasy Stu­dios, Berke­ley, CA, U.S.A.

Mas­tered at Tones on Tail Studios

Pho­tos by Jacque­line Cruz Rocamora

Images by Maggy Rozy­cki Hiltner

Man­u­fac­tured and printed by Disc Mak­ers, Pennsauken, NJ, U.S.A.

Web design by David A. Wells

Music Pub­lish­ers: Libby Larsen Pub­lish­ing (Larsen), Solotto Pub­li­ca­tions (Mignone), Subito Music Pub­lish­ing (Gal­braith), C.F. Peters Cor­po­ra­tion (Bas­sett), Bruyére Music Pub­lish­ers (Elliot)

An HHR Release (HHR 002)

Fund­ing in part from the Uni­ver­sity of the Pacific Con­ser­va­tory Pacific Fund and Schol­arly and Artis­tic Activ­ity Grant

Spe­cial thanks to Lau­ren Kasper, my stu­dents, and my fam­ily. This record­ing would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the love,
inspi­ra­tion, and sup­port of Robert Bot­torff and Leona Bottorff-​Kuster.