Pittsburgh’s NPR classical music station, WQED-FM 89.3, sometimes plays pieces by what they call “one-work wonders,” composers who are known only by a single work. Usually such composers wrote more, but only one – justifiably or not – has captured the music community’s collective ear and made it into the repertoire. On rare occasions, such composers truly only wrote one piece – which made it! Such a work is the 1955 Dance Suite of Paul Valjean, written when the composer was a 20-year-old student at the Eastman School of Music, studying bassoon with K. David Van Hoesen (father of Pittsburgh Symphony harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen). The suite was written for a show organized by Eastman School of Music bassoon students, “The Bassoonists’ Ballet.”
Paul Valjean went on to a career as a dancer and choreographer, and apparently composed no more. His Dance Suite, however, developed a life of its own and became popular with wind groups, being distributed through multiple generations of photocopies before its ultimate publication in 2000. You can hear it yourself on the Winds’ Holiday Express concert, Saturday November 26th at 8pm!