Variations on a theme of Shostakovich – is an original work for bassoon quartet by none other than Graham Sheen. It’s a real belter: a very exciting, substantial and challenging piece that’s great fun to play.
Program notes (by Graham Sheen) In 2010 I began assembling material for bassoon ensemble classes at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This collection, which consists largely of music for four bassoons, grew into The Big Bassoon Quartet Book, a constantly expanding project comprising three volumes: Early Music, 19th to 21st Century and a volume devoted entirely to twenty four arrangements of Scarlatti Sonatas. The Variations on a Theme of Shostakovich is one of two original works I have added so far, the other being the Sonata after Domenico Scarlatti. The theme is the March from Shostakovich’s Six Piano Pieces for Children. It is deceptively simple, even naïve, in character, but it offers surprising side steps from its home key of C into A flat and B flat majors – fertile ground from which the seven increasingly free variations develop. Completed in October 2012, the Variations were first performed in December that year at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama by myself and three of my students: Rebecca Eldridge, Tom Corin and Harry Ventham.
Graham Sheen was a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and became a professor in 1979. He is at present principal bassoonist of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra (since 1983) and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (since 1976). He has appeared extensively as soloist with both orchestras and in April 2013 gave the première of a new bassoon concerto by Judith Bingham. Graham is also a composer, editor and arranger with over fifty published works. He has written several graded albums and studies for bassoon and bassoon ensemble, including Mr Sheen’s Miscellany, a series of 13 pieces for the Trinity Guildhall Examination Board. He has recently recorded two solo CDs with Elizabeth Burley for SFZ Music.