Desert Island Discs with Gretha Tuls

12th January 2016

Our Principal Bassoonist Gretha Tuls tells us about the five pieces of music, book and luxury she would take to a desert island.

When I wrote this, I realised that most of the pieces I’ve chosen include the voice. I wish I was able to sing myself. I love how Benjamin Britten writes for the bassoon, for example in Nocturne or the War Requiem. When he makes the bassoon play in the top register, it comes very close to what the singers are doing.

My favourite piece of music is the St Matthew Passion by JS Bach. Both to play and to listen to it is heavenly. In the Netherlands there is a strong tradition to perform this at Easter; I am sure most viola da gamba players earn their living this way. Easter is not Easter until I’ve listened to or played this piece. The aria Erbarme Dich sung by Andreas Scholl is one I would love to take with me to a desert Island.

Music that I got acquainted with through a modern transcript by Reinbert de Leeuw with the Asko/Schoenberg ensemble is the Dichterliebe song cycle by Robert Schumann, particularly sung by Fritz Wunderlich and accompanied by Hubert Giessen. Ich Grolle nicht is almost a popsong and I would quite happily sing this loud and clear with no one in sight…

Another favourite is Schubert Fifth Symphony by Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Claudio Abbado. Although I love dwelling on long sad melodies, this symphony is just so lovely and light, makes any rainy day bright, besides which, it has a lovely bassoon part.

An opera that I would love to see live is Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. I love the recording with Emmanuelle Haim. This music is just heavenly, the ultimate assimilation of happiness and sadness, just overwhelming. I have noticed it being used in films too.

Shostakovich is one of my favourite composers to play. Unlike some other Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, he writes in a considerate way for the woodwinds. You are not constantly playing long phrases in tutti passages, so that when there is a solo, you can give it your all. The Fourth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Symphonies contain some amazing bassoon solos. I am also looking forward to performing Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé in just a few weeks time. My favourite recording would be Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No 1 played by David Oistrakh, for whom Shostakovich composed the piece. I have not heard an interpretation that can beat his remarkable depth.

The choice of a book, that is tricky, can I not take a kindle instead?! I think there have been a few books that have been life changing for me and one is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It has opened my mind and made me realise I am often limiting myself in life.

Depending on the amount of time I need to spend on the Island…a pair of sunglasses could be practical? But, I bet I would be dying for a piece of chocolate!

(Interview originally produced for Leeds Town Hall’s Music Matters)

Book for Gretha Tuls’s Bassoon Concerto, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Brahms’ Symphony No.1 on Thursday 14 January 2016. 

Book for Gretha Tuls performing at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 16 January 2016.