Ben Hoadley takes his bassoon very seriously; in fact, the instrument's name is even incorporated into his e-mail address. The 37-year-old returned to New Zealand in 2007, after years of studying and playing in Australia and the United States. Over the Tasman, he still sustains a parallel and busy career, playing with groups from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to the city's Omega Ensemble.
Tomorrow, he is soloist in the premiere of Alex Taylor's new Bassoon Concerto, among works by Schoenberg, Bartok and Holst in Auckland Chamber Orchestra's final concert for the year.
"It is a remarkable line-up," says Hoadley. "Friends in America, including a member of Chicago's poshest new music group, have told me it's a dream programme."
Hoadley has come a long way since he first met his instrument of choice. "I was a boy soprano and people were always asking me what I was going to do when my voice broke," he remembers. "It was as if a cataclysmic event was going to happen and you had this definite expiry date ahead of you."
The bassoon was chosen and Hoadley has no regrets, although he does admit to "a huge trumpet envy". However, although trumpets may have their flashy solos in the baroque repertoire he so admires, "the bassoon allows you to really get deep into the music with all the continuo work".
The flexibility of the bassoon is a bonus. As well as participating in Early Music concerts, on baroque bassoon and the archaic dulcian, he has just toured the country with flautist Luca Manghi and pianist David Kelly working as the Donizetti Trio. Meeting audiences after performances, he found that some, despite going to symphony concerts, claimed they had never seen a bassoon.
"They'd tell me that they'd never heard a bassoon close-up and were surprised that it sounded so good. The bassoon does sound good, but people don't always notice it. Once you've heard it and got its sound, you'll start hearing it all the time in orchestral concerts."
Hoadley, a composer with a growing demand for his music over the Tasman, is a staunch advocate of his fellow New Zealand composers. Taking part in Gillian Whitehead's 2007 Tuhonohono concert was "the instigating factor that brought me back to New Zealand", he says. "I met lots of composers and everything really blossomed for me. Now I have all these pieces being sent to me. Every week I open my email to find fabulous new works from composers like James Gardner, Gao Ping and Jack Body."
At 26, Alex Taylor is one of our highest flying young composers.
In 2012 he won the SOUNZ Contemporary Award and will be hearing his new Bassoon Concerto only days after returning from this year's Asian Composers League Festival in Tokyo.
"Alex just loves the bassoon," says Hoadley. "This is the fifth piece of his that I've played," reminding me of the solo Loose Knots that he took to the International Double Reed Society Conference in California last year (a video of Hoadley playing the piece can be found on sounz.org.nz/works/show/21134).
The new concerto has none of the grungy multiphonics that pepper the solo work.
"It's written within a more conservative framework. It's very romantic and luscious, with huge extended phrases that mean I've been having to practise every single day. Alex understands me," he reflects. "It's like the work is laying out my life and there are some passages in the third movement that I can really relate to. We may have connected earlier on; now I feel we've really found each other."
What: Auckland Chamber Orchestra
Where and when: Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Silver Rd, Epsom, tomorrow at 5pm