Our principal bassoonist, Steven Morgan, will be featured in our upcoming winter solstice concert (12/15 & 12/16)
How long have you been playing with NOCCO, and what is your favorite thing about our conductor-less model?
I started playing with NOCCO near the beginning of its creation. My favorite thing about our conductor-less model is the increased contribution I'm making to the musicianship of the ensemble. Normally a conductor sets everything from the tempo to the dynamics and we're obliged to obey. In NOCCO whoever is carrying the melody is leading the ensemble. Everyone is also free during rehearsals to speak up and suggest different ways of playing things. That never happens in an ensemble with a conductor.
The Vivaldi bassoon concerto fits beautifully with the other baroque works on this concert – what do you love about this piece?
There is so much to love about this concerto, but perhaps my favorite thing is the range of drama and emotions in this work. Many of Vivaldi's bassoon concertos stick to one key and feature a lot of fireworks. This one opens with an almost coy statement from the ensemble before rolling into a jubilant theme. When the bassoon first enters I play a very proud statement that eventually devolves into self-doubt. Over the course of the first movement the bassoon works through this self-doubt and eventually joins the strings in their jubilant celebration. The second movement moves into the relative-minor key and has a very different character. The strings open with a bitterly defiant statement followed by me exploring emotions that evolve from melancholy to deep depression and then back to the bitter defiance first introduced by the strings. In the last movement the world seems like a much better place and the main theme expresses contentment more than anything else. That contentment gets flavored with emotions from the preceding movements, but in the end everything is fine and I get to play some of the those fireworks that make Vivaldi so popular
What’s your favorite performance memory? Anything extraordinary or particularly memorable?
A few years ago I played a concert of Mozart piano concertos with Jeffrey Kahane leading the Seattle Symphony from the piano. The whole week of rehearsals were spent working very hard to create an intimate ensemble sound informed by classical performance practice. Then at the performance the ensemble played at an extraordinary level. It was as if all our minds were linked. It was one of those rare times when I wasn't thinking about who I'm playing with, how I need to adjust to create a good ensemble sound, and what I needed to do to prepare for what was coming in the next measure. Instead I was enthralled by each phrase and a conduit for the uniform emotions of the ensemble. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.