Published on Thu, Jun 17, 2004
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by Richard Clark

It was a delight to see bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann and pianist Mary Anne Unrau at Grace Lutheran Church last Wednesday evening, and to hear them present a fine concert while a large audience looked and listened in awe. And appreciation.

Born in Estonia, it was natural for Martin to present three Estonian folk songs that are rarely heard in our country. That’s a musical treat and a breath of fresh air for our community. For years the Peace Arch city was dominated by Children of a Common Mother - Anglo-Saxon descendants, white like the arch, who traced their roots to England and France, among nations of Western Europe. But our community has changed dramatically, becoming uncommonly heterogeneous, especially during the past 15 years. The town is marked by the arrival of families from the former Soviet Union and its satellites, Asia, Spain and African Americans. This, then, is the kind of music we truly need to absorb nowadays.

Although Astor Pantaleon Piazzola died in 1992, Martin and Mary Anne introduced him to their audience by performing three short Piazzolla pieces. At the end of the recital, after receiving a standing ovation, we heard a tango encore. It’s a wonder we didn’t pull out of our pews and try tangoing.

We often hear music written for violin and piano. But pieces composed for bassoon and piano are rarely heard. It was a delight to hear a Saint-Saëns sonata written for these instruments.

I’ve heard Villa-Lobos’ Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras many times, but never in a bassoon rendition. I was surprised at the versatility of a double reed instrument that could assume the role of a missing soprano.

Then there was George Gershwin, whose pieces are perhaps best known among us. Martin conveyed the Gershwin spirit by way of a bassoon producing sounds that made me want reach for mom’s southern fried chicken, me lounging and lazing in the shade of an old apple tree.

Finally, we realize no recital can be complete without Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I dare say the bassoon can match a violin for crisp classical style.

Here are two musicians, deeply committed to their art, warm, thoughtful, and endowed with a keen sense of humor. Certainly, our community owes a debt of gratitude to Martin Kuuskmann and Mary Anne Unrau, and the generosity of Grace Lutheran Church. They must return to the stage soon, but it had better be at our performing arts center next time. We’ll need expanded seating.