The NSO's Sue Heineman, Best of 'Friends'

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The program was called "Heineman, Hill and Friends," but it was Sue Heineman, principal bassoonist of the National Symphony Orchestra and new artist-in-residence at the University of Maryland School of Music, who strutted her stuff most on Monday night in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall of the university's Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. With all due respect to the distinguished oboist (and Maryland prof) Mark Hill, when Heineman plays it's a good thing indeed.

Opening and closing the program were baroque works that called for both Heineman and Hill, plus the sturdy continuo of contrabassist Anthony Manzo and harpsichordist Kenneth Slowik. While their performance of J.B. Boismortier's Trio Sonata in A Minor was a bit tentative, Jan Dismas Zelenka's Trio Sonata No. 6 in C Minor (for which they were joined by oboist Na Young Kwak) had a bracing energy, with the second movement's counterpoint building up exciting momentum. In between, Hill and Heineman deftly sketched the elliptical dialogue and dry wit in Andre Jolivet's Sonatine for Oboe and Bassoon.

But the solo pieces, all performed with pianist Rita Sloan, told the tale: Hill couldn't do much with the tepid meandering of Dana Wilson's "Mandala," while Heineman got two showcases to herself. She made the volatile arpeggios of Alain Bernaud's "Hallucinations" into convincingly disturbed swoons and found manic energy in some imposingly difficult passages. And though Conradin Kreutzer's "Variations for Bassoon and Orchestra" trots out every early-romantic virtuoso cliche in the book, Heineman's brilliant technique and touch of swagger made it fun to hear them one more time.

-- Andrew Lindemann Malone


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