Aho: Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet

Program Note

Kalevi Aho (b.1949)
Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet (1977)

Kalevi Aho made his debut as a composer at the very beginning of the 1970s with two substantial works—his first symphony (1969) and second string quartet (1970).  The genres of these works set the tone for his output throughout the seventies, which concentrated on symphonies and large-scale chamber music works.  Aho’s early style was predominantly neo-classical or late romantic but throughout the 1970s his stylistic expression became gradually more modern and increased in versatility. 

The culmination of this trend is the sixth symphony (1980), which laid the foundation for the broad and richly fertile stylistic palette evident in his mature output.  In the 1980s the center of his attention shifted away from symphonies towards concerti and chamber music.

The bassoon quintet is one of the central works in Aho’s chamber music output and a splendid example of the “mixed aesthetic” which is characteristic of Aho as a composer; of his inclination to juxtapose different styles and emotions in the same context.  The starting point for the work is to be found in the schizophrenic quality of the bassoon as an instrument, with is ability to express sentiments both comic and tragic.