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Graham Sheen


A Bassoonist's
Cabinet of Curiosities

Goodbye Mr Galliard

Graham Sheen (b.1952) has enjoyed a wide ranging career as a bassoonist and teacher. After graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, where he studied with Roger Birnstingl and Martin Gatt, he joined the English Opera Group in 1973 as principal bassoon under the direction of Benjamin Britten. After two years he moved to the English Chamber Orchestra and in the following year became its principal bassoonist. At this time he appeared in many of the orchestra’s most distinguished collaborations, most notably the Mozart cycles of Daniel Barenboim, Murray Perahia (recording the entire cycle along with quintets for wind and piano by Mozart and Beethoven) and later Mitsuko Ushida. In that same year (1976) he was invited by Sir Neville Marriner to become principal bassoonist of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, a post he held concurrently with that in the English Chamber Orchestra and which he still holds. He has appeared with both orchestras as soloist on numerous occasions in some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and has made many solo recordings for disc and radio. In 1983 he relinquished his post in the English Chamber Orchestra to join his present orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 1996 Graham recorded Elgar’s Romance for bassoon with Sir Andrew Davis and the BBCSO.


Since 1979 he has been professor of bassoon at the Guildhall School of Music, London where he also directs the wind ensemble. Many of his past students now occupy positions in major orchestras both in Britain and Europe, and two have become professors at the Guildhall. He is frequently invited to direct ensembles and give master classes at London’s other music colleges and acts regularly as their external examiner and consultant. Graham has himself always been an active chamber musician and has recorded many of the major works in the repertoire with the ASMF Chamber Ensemble. For eight years he was director of Wind Chamber Music at Canford Summer School for which he was able to make several large scale transcriptions such Brahms’ Variations on a theme of Handel and Dvorak’s Bagatelles and Czech Suite.


He has had over twenty arrangements and educational works for winds published, many of which appear in the examination syllabus of the Royal Schools of Music. It was during the preparation of some of these in 1991 for Edwin F. Kalmus that the Editor in Chief encouraged him to make a somewhat belated start in composition. His chamber works include three string quartets, solo pieces for violin, viola and cello as well as four song cycles for soprano, including one with string quartet, one with solo viola and one with orchestra. Recent works include Scherzi for string orchestra, Endsong for solo bassoon, two works for chamber orchestra and three for wind quintet, from the Island of Horses, 3 Sonnets of Exile and The Crow’s Tale which was commissioned by Brighton Festival. In November 2001 baroque bassoonist Marc Vallon recorded Goodbye, Mr Galliard in a new version for baroque bassoon, cello and harpsichord which in 2003 was chosen as the set work for the final examinations at the Paris Conservatoire. This collaboration with Marc Vallon has inspired other works originally intended for period instruments, and these include Ecossaise, again for bassoon, cello and harpsichord, La Tristesse du Roi for bassoon quartet, and Variations on Mein Junges Leben hat ein End for four baroque and four modern bassoons.


Graham is presently working on Four American Sketches for bassoon and piano, a commission from the Park Lane Group which will be premiered at the Purcell Room, London on January 9 2009. He has recently recorded a CD for SFZmusic which will be something of a personal retrospective. It will include his own Goodbye, Mr. Galliard and Concert Studies, Sally Beamish’s Capriccio which is dedicated to him, Crusell’s Airs Suedois and his own edition of Schumann’s Five Pieces in the Folk Style.