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Concert Spirituel play music for Louis XIV’s bassoonist

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Dec. 28, 2009 at 6:48 am with No Comments »
December 23, 2009 2:09 pm


Baroque bassoonist Anna Marsh. Photo courtesy Jeffrey Cohan.
Baroque bassoonist Anna Marsh. Photo courtesy Jeffrey Cohan.

It isn’t every day you get to hear a baroque bassoon in Tacoma, but next Monday there’ll be one – and played by a native Tacoman, no less. Seattle-based early music chamber group Concert Spirituel will give a concert of French baroque music in South Tacoma’s Grace Lutheran Church, along with bassoonist Anna Marsh.


If you’re asking ‘what’s a baroque bassoon?’ then you’re probably not alone. The 17th-and 18th-century ancestor of the bassoon you see in the back woodwind row of today’s orchestras has the same skinny pipe shape, played through a double reed attached to a curvy hook. But the wood is different, there are fewer keys, the pitch is lower and the sound is both more mellow and more in-your-face, a kind of juicy, farty roundness.

It’s a gorgeous sound, and that’s one reason why Anna Marsh decided to specialize in it. After growing up in Tacoma, attending Stadium High and playing with the Tacoma Youth Symphony, Marsh went on to great things at Interlaken and Indiana University and period music performances everywhere from the Boston Early Music Festival to the Czech Republic.

“The baroque and classical eras were the heyday for the bassoon,” says Marsh, who’s home for the holidays. “It was much more of a team player. I really like the acoustic feel of it.”

Marsh will join Seattle baroque flutist Jeffrey Cohan and lutenist John Lenti in playing a program taken from a rare manuscript in the Library of Congress of music from the court of Louis XIV. Louis’ music librarian, André Danican Philidor l’ainé, also happened to be a bassoonist, and when asked by the king to arrange the royal playlist for court ensemble, Philidor created a folio of trios by Lully, Charpentier and others for flute, bassoon and continuo (such as lute or harpsichord.) It’s rarely-heard music for a rare instrument.

Concert Spirituel will present “Louis XIV’s Bassoon” at 7:30 p.m. on January 4 at Grace Lutheran Church, 6202 S. Tyler St., Tacoma. Suggested free-will donation is $15, under-18 are free. Information: 253-472-7105

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