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Classical 101

A New Composer for This Old Dog

Bernard Garfield, a native of New York, played principal bassoon for the Phildelphia Orchestra, served in the U.S. Military and military bands, and added some of the most fascinating bassoon music in the instrument's repertoire.

One of the great things about classical music: You can never know it all. There's always room to experience music loved by many but new to you. 

This happened to me yesterday, during my annual visit to the Lancaster Festival. The setting was the incomparable Shaw's Inn, home of hot fudge and prime rib of heaven, and a Cafe Concert called Strings Meet Winds.  I thought I was the wind(s). Not so. I was the M.C. The music was provided by the young, the graceful and the remarkably gifted musicians of the Festival.

We heard music by Johann Christian Bach; a Londoner who embraced the child Mozart. We heard the music of Wolfgang Amadeus himself, plus the Swede Bernard Crussell, known in his day as "The Swedish Mozart.' Then there was a bassoon quintet by Bernard Garfield.

That shut me up. Who's Bernard Garfield? Related to John Garfield? President Garfield?

Bernard Garfield, born in 1924 was principal bassoon of the Philadelphia Orchestra until ten years ago. Being in his nineties isn't slowing him down.


I settled down to listen, trying to stand unobtrusively to the side of the packed house. (I looked like a plum on steroids in my WOSU shirt and being unobtrusive is out of my pay grade. But I tried.) I found myself really digging in to the Garfield piece. It wasn't lovely and perfectly proportioned as were the Mozart and J.S. Bach. I found the Garfield Bassoon Quartet brooding, dark and sexy. I immediately wanted to know more about his composer and his music:


My thanks to the Lancaster Festival from this fat plum who has found a new composer to admire, and share.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.