Oboist premieres new work in final concert with Musical Offering

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
May 27, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. — Basil Reeve began playing with the then-brand new chamber music group, Musical Offering, almost the minute he moved to town in 1971.

For almost four decades, he's enjoyed presenting concerts of varied repertoire, building an audience, and discovering new pieces and new ways to play old pieces.

This weekend, he steps down from Musical Offering, but not before playing a new piece written for him by an old friend, James Bolle.

Like a lot of musicians, Basil Reeve has his hand in many projects. From the demanding duties as principal oboe of the Minnesota Orchestra, to playing in far-flung festivals, to listening with score in hand to Strauss operas, he is one busy musician.

In the late 1990s, Reeve recorded two works by James Bolle, his friend and the director of the Monadnock Music Festival in New Hampshire. The music has a mercurial character to it, jumping around almost in a stream-of-consciousness fashion.

Years later Reeve decided it was time to step down from one of his local gigs, as co-artistic director, principal programmer and oboist of Musical Offering. He was planning to commission a piece for his final concert. It turns out James Bolle had already begun writing another piece with Reeve in mind.

This happy coincidence turned into this weekend's premiere and the centerpiece of Reeve's farewell. It's called "Songs in Dialog" for oboe, strings and percussion, and is based on Bach's Cantata 159.

While not exactly a paraphrase or a set of variations, James Bolle takes his inspiration from the chorale and gives the oboist a chance to play long lyrical lines.

The concert is this Sunday at 3 p.m. at Sundin Hall at Hamline University in St. Paul

Basil Reeve stopped by the Minnesota Public Radio studio to speak with classical music host Alison Young about this new work.

He also reminisces about his many years successfully programming familiar and not-so-familiar pieces with Musical Offering, and why he prefers to play an oboe made of cocobolo wood.

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