MSO makes a ballyhoo over the bassoon
Erich Heckscher was a third-grader in California when his teacher quizzed his class on posters with images of musical instruments.
Heckscher recognized the trumpet and the saxophone, and for some reason, he said, he always remembered the bassoon.
“It didn’t look like anything else,” he said.
Once he learned what the bassoon was, he did not forget it, but neither did he have a driving ambition to play it, or any other musical instrument for that matter.
“My brother played the guitar and piano. I would ride along to drop him off for lessons,” Heckscher said. “I had no interest in music at that age. I was off doing other things. It didn’t occur to me.”
It was not until middle school that he took an interest in music, but once he did, Heckscher never turned back. He went on to study at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and to become a music lecturer, coach, professor and performer.
On Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m., the Maryland Symphony Orchestra principal bassoonist will be the featured guest at the “Immortal Mozart + Schubert’s Fifth Symphony” concert at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown. Heckscher will play Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K. 191, a piece he said is recognizable for most classical music fans.
“It’s by far the most popular bassoon piece in the history of mankind. It’s very approachable. It’s in a major key, a happy piece. It’s fairly short so it appears on the radio quite a bit,” he said during a phone interview from his home in Bethesda, Md.
The concert also will feature Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” featuring the Frostburg State University Chamber Singers and University Chorale conducted by Scott Rieker, as well as Franz Schubert’s “Symphony No. 5.”
Heckscher said he discovered his passion for music through an exploratory course he took in middle school that offered a music class as the first in a series of subjects.
“I realized that everything they were talking about in class instantly made sense to me. I didn’t have to think about it very hard,” he said.
He decided that he should stick with a music class, and remembered “that old instrument called the bassoon.”
“They said, ‘We haven’t had anyone play the bassoon for years.’ So I thought, ‘Jeez, it’s pretty obvious then that that’s what I need to do,’” he said.
Meanwhile, a woman came into his class and did a bassoon demonstration.
“This is when I heard what the bassoon really sounded like. I had heard people play the flute, the oboe, the clarinet. Everything seemed to have this high, piercing sound that didn’t sit well with me. To this day, honestly, it still doesn’t,” he said. “I like the lower range and that warm, deep sound. I love it.”
Though the instrument is not easy to play, Heckscher said, he quickly developed an affinity for the bassoon. He became a fan of classical music and began to play with a youth orchestra.
Around the same time, the film “Amadeus” was released.
“I was in seventh grade. I was excited to see it. There was a bassoon on the screen,” he said. “I was grabbing my mom’s sleeve pointing to it.”
Heckscher followed through with the bassoon in high school, playing with the Marin County Youth Orchestra and then the San Francisco Youth Orchestra.
In addition to his current seat with the MSO, Heckscher is principal bassoon with the National Philharmonic and an active performer in the Washington, D.C., area.
Heckscher said the FSU chorus will perform Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” is “a fantastic group of singers.” The piece also will feature four professional vocalists — Francesca Molinaro, soprano, Francesca Aguado, mezzo soprano, David Cook, tenor, and Rob McGinness, baritone.
Schubert’s Symphony No. 5, Heckscher said, is one of his “favorite pieces to play.”
“All of Schubert’s symphonies are wonderful pieces of music — melodious lyrical writing,” he said.
Following the MSO concert, pop-up live music and dance experience Club MSO will kick off its new season across the street from The Maryland Theatre at The Flying Camel Literary Café & Piano Bar. A limit of 100 Club MSO VIP tickets are available for $30 each and include admission to both the concert and after party.
Top photo: Bassoonist Erich Heckscher will join the Maryland Symphony Orchestra this weekend to perform on Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K. 191. (Submitted photo)