“My favourite composers are Shostakovich and Beethoven, and my favourite piece is Sibelius’s Swan Of Tuonela – if that cor anglais solo had been for bassoon everything would have been ideal! The most difficult composer to play would be Tchaikovsky, because as well as the solos you’ve got some technically difficult bits and some very quiet passages, so it’s every aspect of the bassoon in one symphony. That works especially in the last movement of the Pathétique, which nobody likes, but you’ve got to get on with it I suppose!”

-bassoonist Karen Geoghegan (I read it here

Well, Swan is a pretty cool piece, but it simply has to be on English horn (cor anglais). Of that I’m sure you all agree. But I was just so surprised to hear someone name that work as their fave.

You can hear her talk about her experience on Classical Star, a British TV show, on which she came in second:

Here is the final episode of Classical Star (she played Hummel for the first final work. I’d have preferred the concerto. Oh well.):

And hear the 20 year old play here:


  1. I really like her playing. Her tone is awesome and her musicality/expression is amazing. She plays the music rather than playing the instrument, if that makes any sense at all. She definitely seems to have mastered a very difficult instrument at an early age, and as noted by one of the audience members, she seems to really enjoy playing, which is always engaging.

    I hate to say, though, that I found the puffing out of her cheeks to be somewhat of a distraction in the one video (probably because it was one of the very first things I was taught as a nine-year-old learning the trumpet – no cheek puffing!).

  2. Yeah, I was surprised by the cheek puffing too. DK, what do you think?

  3. First of all, yes, EH is mandatory for the Swan of Tuonela – though if Sibelius had written it for bassoon, he would have written it differently and that would have been a marvelous piece too.

    About the cheek-puffing – well, I have to say it doesn’t really seem to be a detriment to her playing, does it? I don’t have time to listen to a lot, but I heard the beginning of “Summertime” and she sounds quite lovely. I was taught not to puff my cheeks either, but as I have aged and am unable to keep the air behind my teeth like in the old days, my cheeks puff out some too (though, I think, not as much as this young woman’s). And it doesn’t seem to have affected the sound (just my vanity). I remember being horrified by the sight of that happening to an older colleague years ago…but now mine do the same thing. Serves me right!

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, DK! I thought, too, that she sounds pretty darn fine, so … well … whatever! So maybe cheek puffing isn’t the big deal after all?

    I’ve always taught students, “Less reed!” and then I look at some incredibly fine oboist and think, “Oh. Never mind!” Because they nearly swallow the reed and they are miles beyond me.

  5. And PS: Did Sibelius write good stuff for bassoon? Just curious!