Bassoon… the “Sea God?”

Written by Executive Assistant Alex Legeros

BassoonOne of the frustrating parts about being a bassoonist is that people expect the instrument to be a grumpy grandfather, a goofy clown or even a melancholic tenor. Composers (and don’t get me started about people who “compose” for bands) don’t understand the instrument; they hear a funny noise emanating from the woodwind section too weird to give the melody and yet not diffuse enough to hide among the brass section.

But bassoons aren’t simply disregarded like one would treat a quirky scholar. Once composers get close enough to see all the shiny buttons all comprehension slips from their minds. You tell them, “Oh these nine are just for my left thumb, these four are for my right thumb. Here, see the front of the instrument,” and by this point their eyes are as glazed as Paula Dean’s favorite Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Hence why unless you’re listening for it, one rarely hears the bassoon like you would a violin or oboe in an orchestra. Fear and misunderstanding on the part of most composers neatly tucks away the bassoon to be let out only when it doesn’t endanger the lyricism or beauty of their precious works.

We bassoonists are thankful for every composer who avoids this unfortunate pitfall. Mozart was one of the first, and in the inclusion of his Sonata for Bassoon and Cello on this Sunday’s program is one of the best examples of what a bassoon should sound like. Throughout each of the three movements the bassoon sings alongside the cello–it is one of the only works where the bassoon comes off more lyrical and expressive than its stringed cousin. This melody flows like water through brooks and into the sea in such a satisfying way that it is not uncommon for audiences to depart as born-again bassoon fans. Rarely does a piece of music change your conception of what an instrument sounds like than what Mozart has given us in this sonata.

MozartAs with his bassoon concerto, this piece was commissioned by Baron Thaddäus von Dürnitz, an amateur bassoonist in Berlin. Classical duets like this sonata were performed and received in what would have been the late 18th century’s version of Minneapolis’s First Avenue. The pop-music appeal is not lost today: a melody you’ll be singing on the ride home, a rockin’ baseline courtesy of the cello, and I guarantee you’ll be smiling and feeling good when Norbert and Jim hit us with that closing Bb chord.

Are you as excited as I am to hear this Sunday’s concert? I’ll see you there, and if you want to grab your tickets today, order online at:

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