Theodore Soluri, bassoon

Now Hear This: an Interview with Theodore Soluri

Get to know Theodore Soluri, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s principal bassoonist since late 2015. Mr. Soluri pairs with cellist Jennifer Humphreys to play Mozart’s sonata for bassoon and cello on the program for the upcoming Bancroft Family Concert on Saturday, February 25. As always, the free concert begins at 3 p.m. at the Dallas Museum of Art. Doors to the Horchow Auditorium open at 2:30. Come early to guarantee seating!

Photo by Jennifer Brinkley

Photo by Jennifer Brinkley

What piece on the program are you most excited about? What should audience members listen for? I have always found the Mozart Sonata to be wonderfully quirky. It’s a relatively early work, though later than the bassoon concerto, but it still shows Mozart’s well-known melodic genius. {Now Hear This! Click to hear an excerpt of Mr. Soluri playing Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-flat Major, K. 191.}

As a bassoonist, what do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a large symphony? Playing chamber music is very different than orchestral work. The challenge of playing without a conductor is so rewarding and always makes a musician’s listening skills sharpen. It also gives us a chance to put more or our own ideas into the complete performance.

Is chamber music for bassoon a big part of the repertoire? There is a fair amount of chamber music with bassoon, but certainly not as much as for strings, piano, and other wind instruments. As I primarily play orchestral music and opera, it’s always fun to get to play chamber music.

How old were you when you started playing the bassoon? Why did you choose it? Did you learn other instruments?  I started playing clarinet in seventh grade and took to it very quickly. I started eighth grade knowing that I would be first chair in the band. But when I showed up for the first day, my band director handed me a bassoon, a reed, and an etude book and told me I had two weeks to learn the basics before I was to start playing with the band. So for those two weeks I would sit in the instrument storage room during band rehearsals and learned all the fingerings I could and my C, F, and B-flat major scales. Then two weeks later I jumped right in.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? I was a child of the ’70s. The music in my house when I was growing up included The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Frank Zappa, lots of folk music as well as some classical. I definitely had–and still have–a really varied taste in music that goes well beyond classical.

You’re a relatively new transplant to Dallas. What has been the biggest surprise about Big D? Well, not surprising but definitely challenging has been learning my way around such a huge city. I’ve been in medium-sized cities for the past 22 years that were all easy to get around. Learning how to get to places and also learning alternate routes when the traffic is bad (which is more often than not!) has been interesting. I’m really enjoying Dallas, though. The people here are so nice, the food is great, and of course the orchestra is amazing. I’m honored to be here.

It’s not unusual to hear of humorous stereotypes for certain musicians and their instruments in an orchestra. What’s a typical bassoonist like? Bassoonists are known to be very fun and laid back. Maybe that’s a reaction to playing one of the hardest instruments there is!  But I also find it interesting that bassoonists also enjoy being in leadership positions, like orchestra committee chairs, delegates to musician conferences, and even personnel managers.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? This changes a lot but in general I love playing Mozart, Mahler, Strauss, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky. But my all-time favorite thing to play is a Mozart opera. Nothing cleanses my soul more than that! 

What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite? My favorite sound is a purring cat. My least favorite sound is a screaming child on an airplane.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Wow, this is interesting!  I would have to say the concert I would want to see is Tosca starring Maria Callas. What a true artist in every sense of the word.