Bianca Chambul’s Favourites

Bianca Chambul’s Favourites

Playlist notes from Bianca Chambul:

The theme of this playlist is music that has particular significance for me, focusing on much-loved repertoire and artists that marked pivotal chapters along my musical journey. This is a slightly eclectic mix with the underlying thread being some of my favourite works featuring the bassoon. It also includes selections on recorder and saxophone, which were my two beginning instruments. More detailed notes can be found here if you’d like to read along as you listen.

Tallis, Te Lucis Ante Terminum, Festal
This track from the acapella group, Voces8, is a beautiful opening to their album, Eventide. In this awe-inspiring selection, you will hear a saxophone used in a classical context. The flexibility and colours of the instrument work very well with the unaccompanied voices. Starting this playlist with an exquisite choral ensemble is a reminder of how we as instrumentalists seek to imitate the voice.

Andrès, Chants d’arrière-saison: 1. Andantino
Judy LeClair’s singing vibrato, sense of line, and lyricism compel me to continually study her playing. It is no wonder that she holds the principal bassoon position with the New York Philharmonic. This brief opening number to Andrès’ seven-movement work for bassoon and harp is a hidden gem of the repertoire that I wish I had discovered sooner.
A small piece of trivia: Judy LeClair studied with esteemed bassoon pedagogue, David K. Van Hoesen, and his daughter, Gretchen, is performing the harp part in this recording. The 12,000-series Heckel I now play was previously owned by Mr. Van Hoesen as a second instrument, and I am grateful to have it in my possession.

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams”:
III. Scherzo. Allegro scherzando giocoso

I am a fan of Tchaikovsky’s early symphonies, and his first is one I would love to perform in the orchestra. This scherzo is wonderful because of how well Tchaikovsky disguises the metre with hemiolas. Try tapping along where you think the beat is and you’ll be thrown for a loop (as I was) to discover it was written completely in 3/8.

Morricone, Sergio Leone Suite: Ecstasy of Gold
Especially with Ennio’s passing in 2020, it seemed appropriate to include a clip of what I consider one of the finest classical albums out there. My mom loves listening to Yo-Yo Ma and enjoyed the film The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, for which Morricone composed the score. He and Yo-Yo Ma collaborated to rewrite the best moments from the soundtrack and add a prominent cello feature, resulting in a masterpiece that I return to again and again. Whenever I’m visiting my childhood home in Thornhill, Ontario, my mom often has this playing as she prepares a fabulous meal. The entire CD is breathtaking.

Orbison, The Comedians
Though I mostly listen to orchestral or classical music, Roy Orbison’s emotional tune The Comedians stood out to me when my I was introduced to this album. It recounts a tale of heartbreak as a lover’s partner leaves him stranded on a carnival ride, brutally ending their relationship. Here are the lyrics:

I sat there alone upon the Ferris wheel
A pastel colored carriage in the air
I thought you’d leave me dangling for a little while
A silly twist upon a childish dare

Below I saw you whispering to another man
Who held the lever that could bring me down
He’d stop the world from turning at your command
It’s always something cruel that laughter drowns

And I’m up while the dawn is breaking
Even though my heart is aching
I should be drinking a toast
To absent friends
Instead of these comedians

I can hardly hear the music from the carousel
The wind picks up, the carriage starts to sway
As one by one the lights go out
It’s closing time
I see you take his hand and walk away
Walk away

They say that you will always be the last to know
They say that all that glitters is not gold
It’s not just that you’re never coming back to me
It’s the bitter way that I was told

And I’m up while the dawn is breaking
Even though my heart is aching
I should be drinking a toast
To absent friends
Instead of these comedians

Jolivet, Concerto for Bassoon, Strings and Harp: Largo cantabile
This playlist would not be complete without a nod to one of my top bassoon heroes, virtuoso soloist Sergio Azzolini. Equally at home on period bassoons as well as the modern German system, Azzolini makes one of the strongest cases for the instrument being used prominently in solo works. His artistic capabilities deeply resonate with me, and you’ll see why as he draws the listener into an out-of-this-world atmosphere of stark tranquility in Jolivet’s demanding concerto, juxtaposed with this all-too-brief moment of tenderness. (The second movement segues into the finale, which is why there is a slightly abrupt cut-off.)

Jobim: Desafinado (featuring Stan Getz)
During the years I studied saxophone, one of my teachers, Braxton Hicks, introduced me to the legendary Stan Getz. I was sometimes assigned to learn parts of Getz’s solos by ear, and I enjoyed attempting to transcribe them as well. Here is his interpretation of a popular bossa nova tune.

Williams, The Five Sacred Trees: III. Rossa
When I first heard The Five Sacred Trees in 2014, it did not speak to me as it does now. Upon later finding a recording of the London Symphony Orchestra featuring Judy LeClair, principal bassoonist of the New York Philharmonic and for whom it is written, this piece became instantly captivating. What an honour that the incredible composer John Williams chose to write a solo work for the bassoon, and, in his words, “Judy LeClair’s unparalleled artistry” is just the kind of playing to do it justice.

Lussier, Double Concerto for Trumpet, Bassoon and Strings: Recit – Allegro Moderato
My fascination with the bassoon began in grade six. A Google search led me to my future teacher Nadina Mackie Jackson’s website, where I was hooked instantly. In high school, I joined the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, where my first bassoon-playing friend gave me a hard copy of this album. I am deeply grateful that Canadian composer and conductor Mathieu Lussier, himself a bassoonist, has written such lyrical works to add to the repertoire. This recording of his three-movement concerto has brought much joy with each listen. Though an unusual instrumental combination, Guy Few’s sensitive trumpet playing paired with Nadina’s dark sound and agility on the bassoon work in tandem to produce a memorable result.

Prizeman, Mysterium
Another vocal feature, this haunting tune is deeply poignant and arrestingly beautiful. It stayed with me for a long time when I first heard it years ago. I discovered Libera, the British boys choir, thanks to my mom. Mysterium was not on any of the albums that my family bought her for Christmas over the years, but it has been one of the most memorable songs in their body of work. All of their music is transporting, but Mysterium stood out to me, particularly once the choir enters, incorporating a surprisingly appropriate and effective synthesizer by way of introduction. Its unusual chord progression invites an introspective moment of reflection, and makes me set aside my cares for the moment.

Vivaldi, Bassoon Concerto in F Major (RV 485): III. Allegro molto
For these next three selections, I chose to create my own baroque concerto sequence. This first track features Sergio Azzolini playing on a copy of a Venetian baroque bassoon pitched at A=440 rather than A=415. Since Vivaldi was based in Venice, this is likely the kind of instrument he would have had access to as he composed concertos for the girls in the orphanage known as Ospedale della Pièta. The rugged and organic tone quality of this baroque bassoon recalls another era and gives a different flavour than hearing this music performed on modern instruments.
Vivaldi dedicated 39 of his over 500 concertos to the bassoon, each in three movements with a fast-slow-fast arrangement. There is a standing joke that Vivaldi wrote the same concerto five hundred times, but Azzolini’s vibrant, out-of-the-box interpretations highlight individual characters in each concerto, transforming them into miniature operas with distinct flavours and affects. His performances truly lift this music off the page and make Vivaldi come alive for me, displaying utmost control as he showcases the bassoon’s vocal, expressive qualities interspersed with jocular agility. (Not only that, he unabashedly adds a cadenza in the end!)
Virtually any repertoire I hear Azzolini play makes me want to buy the music on the spot and learn it. While individual musicians may tend to have a signature style, what makes Azzolini so compelling is that I haven’t figured him out: any time I imagine how he might play something, I am repeatedly surprised how he takes the music in a completely different direction, especially in his four albums of Vivaldi concerti.

Vivaldi, Recorder Concerto in C Major: II. Largo
I recently learned about Lucie Horsch, a rising European recorder soloist with multiple recordings and engaging live performances to her name. It was a pleasure to find this track of her playing my favourite slow movement for the recorder written by Vivaldi, which I heard many years ago. When students learn the recorder in school as an introduction to music, I thought it was just a basic instrument rather than an opportunity on which to build a career path. In the right hands, it is capable of incredible nuance and dexterity.

Telemann, Concerto for Recorder and Bassoon in F Major (TWV 52:F1)
In this track, we’ll get to hear two of my favourite instruments in dialogue together. Telemann’s concerto is significant to me because this is the earliest memory I have of recognizing what a bassoon was. I was five or six years old at the time, and my mom had read a study claiming that people who listened to classical music on the road drove less recklessly. Whether or not this is true, I remember sitting in the backseat while this piece aired on the radio station. Upon hearing it, I was drawn to the rich, velvety sound of the bassoon.

Morricone, The Hateful Eight soundtrack
Where else would you hear a contrabassoon used as a melody instrument in the opening credits of an award-winning film except for on L’Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock? Morricone’s writing has a bassoon feature throughout this segment as well. What a treat!

Thank you for listening to my playlist. I hope you enjoy this compilation as much as I do.