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Swoon over the bassoon at next symphony concert

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Keith Buncke to star in concert March 15 at community college


In 2008, Lake Oswego native and Portland Youth Philharmonic alumnus Keith Buncke won the position of principal bassoonist with the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DAVID BAZEMORE - In just 10 years, Keith Buncke has gone from an aspiring bassoonist to one of the best in the country.

Then, last February, while attending the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Buncke won a full-time principal bassoonist position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, beating dozens of qualified musicians, many of whom were two or three times his age.

If that’s not enough, this January, Buncke won the same position at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, considered to be the best symphony orchestra in the United States, and will start playing with it in July.

At the age of 21, Buncke has only been playing the bassoon for a decade, yet has cemented his place as one of this generation’s finest woodwind musicians.

East County music lovers can hear him with the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra when it performs “Global Dances” at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 15, at Mt. Hood Community College.

In this concert, conducted by Music Director Steven Byess, PCSO has assembled a variety of rousing orchestral dances from around the world, including performances of Enescu’s “Romanian Rhapsody, Op. 11,” Falla’s “Dances from the Three Cornered Hat,” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34.”

Buncke and his bassoon

Buncke will be featured in the symphony’s renditions of Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos’ “Ciranda das sete notes,” as well as Weber’s “Andante and Hungarian Rondo, Op. 35.”

The Villa-Lobos’ piece is “really different than almost anything I’ve played before,” Buncke says, noting he’s more familiar with pieces composed by Europeans.

“It’s really interesting to play a piece by a 20th century Brazilian composer,” he says. “There’s this one part where he has these gigantic downward slurs, like two-octave leaps of eighth notes. It’s just slow enough to get the notes out.”

Buncke has played Weber’s piece before and his rendition won him a 2009 Young Artists Debut honor from MetroArts Inc. in Portland. The piece’s opening section has a “kind of singing quality,” but the piece ends “like very typical bassoonist clownish music,” Buncke says.

He adds that he and his bassoon have become good friends over the years.

“When I picked up the bassoon, I just kind of instantly fell in love with it,” he says. “It felt natural.”