McGill Bassoon Day 2024

The 21st annual Bassoon Day at McGill University was held on Saturday, February 3, 2024!  OSM principal bassoon Stephane Levèsque welcomed guests Carlo Colombo and Marlène Ngalissamy, as well as Ben and Derek Bell who brought of their latest bassoons to show.

– Stéphane visiting Carlo at his home outside of Lyon, 2022.  Shoes by Vans…


Stéphane Lévesque writes…

I first ‘met’ Carlo Colombo on a recording of the Chants d’Auvergne by Joseph Canteloube (whom you may know for his wonderful Rustiques for reed trio), with soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Lyon Opera Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano. That would have been around 1995, when I was at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, and when I was a member of the Columbia Record Club – I sure got a lot of CDs around that time.

So I put on this recording; the opening track – the Pastorale – begins, and I am instantly mesmerised, so much so that I end up listening to the whole album twice in a row. The wind playing is sublime, Dawn Upshaw is magical. And the bassoon – I still remember the goosebumps. “Who is that?” Through a bit of investigating – the internet-for-the-masses was in its infancy -, a friend who had studied in Lyon finally told who the solo bassoonist of the Lyon Opera was: Carlo Colombo! And the rest, as they say, is history.

I remember talking to Kent Nagano when he first guest conducted the OSM in 1999, and I mentioned that Canteloube recording, how I especially loved the winds, and how much I admired Carlo’s playing, and Maestro Nagano replied that he hoped Carlo and I would get a chance to meet because he was certain we’d get along well. Then in 2001 I was a guest at the meeting of the Association Bassons in Paris – after having met many wonderful French bassonistes at the 2000 IDRS conference in Buenos Aires -, and that’s when I met Carlo for the first time. I admit to being a little star-struck when we met, and then I told him the story of hearing that recording for the first time. Kent Nagano was right: we got along so very well, and I feel very lucky that we have kept in touch and remained good friends ever since.

Carlo was our first Bassoon Day guest back in 2003, and he came again in 2010 and 2016. Then in 2017, at the invitation of Kent Nagano, Carlo joined the OSM bassoon section in the premiere of Simon Leclerc’s Concerto Grosso for four bassoons, contrabassoons, strings and timpani, a work which was commissioned for the annual OSM Virée Classique summer festival. The other work on the short program was Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, which pretty much guaranteed us a sold-out hall with lots of kids who got to discover the bassoon!

Carlo Colombo

Born in Padua, Italy, Carlo Colombo has served as Principal Bassoon of the Lyon National Opera Orchestra since its inception in 1983. From 1978 to 1981 he was Principal Bassoon of the ensemble I Solisti Veneti, and has performed as guest principal bassoon with many European orchestras including the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the NDR Orchestra in Hamburg, the Orchestre de Paris, the Tonhalle Zürich and the Bayerische Staatsoper, Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

Faculty member of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon since 2001, Mr.Colombo joined the faculty at the Lausanne Conservatory in Switzerland in 2005, and he was a guest professor at Indiana University and at the Oberlin Conservatory. Since 2021, he is Guest Professor at Akademia Muzyczna im. Krzysztofa Pendereckiego w Krakowie

Mr. Colombo received his “Diploma di Fagotto” from the Milano Conservatory, where he studied with Evandro Dall’Oca. He obtained his “Premier Prix de Virtuosité” from the Geneva Conservatory where he studied with Roger Birnstingl. He also studied with Brian Pollard in Amsterdam.

Marlène Ngalissamy

Marlène Ngalissamy was appointed principal bassoon of the Orchestre symphonique de Québec in May 2022. She has also performed with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and as guest principal bassoon with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. She was recently invited to perform with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in a program of works for bassoon, voice, and piano, and is on faculty of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada since summer 2023. Marlene has given masterclasses at the University of Ottawa, online with Bassoons Without Borders, and at the Conservatoire de musique de Québec. In 2020 and 2021, Marlène traveled to London, England to perform with the Chineke! Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall and Wigmore Hall, where she recorded works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Marlène studied with Mathieu Harel and Stéphane Lévesque at the Montréal Conservatory before completing a postgraduate diploma at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Daniel Matsukawa. She is an alumna of the Domaine Forget, Orford, and Marlboro chamber music festival programs, as well as the Pacific Music Festival in Japan and Pablo Casals festival in France.


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