Concerto for Bassoon (Zwilich)
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (trans. Tim Hill)
Year: 1992 / 2016
Duration: c. 17:30
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Bassoon and Orchestra
Publisher: U.S. Navy Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown
2. Allegro molto
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet Solo-I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Flugelhorn I-II
Horn in F I-II
- Crash Cymbals
- Snare Drum, piccolo
- Suspended Cymbal
None discovered thus far.
To my delight, I have found that the bassoon is a remarkable solo instrument with a wide range of expressive power. An artist-virtuoso can perform just about anything on the bassoon, from fluid, vocal, signing lines to wildly virtuosic fast passages. Perhaps more than any other instrument, the bassoon is able to suggest a single line breaking into multiple voices, even at breakneck speed. My concerto calls on all of these abilities, plus the ability to respond to the orchestra (the bassoon even has a significant relationship to the percussion). But, above all, I have tried to write more than an instrumental exercise, but through the bassoon, to make a highly personal musical statement.
The first movement, mostly slow in tempo, grows out of the lyric, singing, and dramatic qualities of the bassoon, with a brisk allegro between the slow sections. The second movement is mostly very fast, interrupted by a virtuoso cadenza that begins by recalling the slow music of the first movement.
- Program Note by composer
Stereotypes can blind us to the potential not only of people but of instruments. Witness Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's intentions in composing her Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra:
"In recent years I have composed a number of concertos for orchestral instruments ... Perhaps the most interesting aspect of writing a concerto for an instrument I do not play is the challenge of discovering and exploring the nature of the instrument, and trying to internalize its spirit, so that I feel my concerto issues from the 'soul' of the instrument itself. Particularly in the case of the bassoon (whose solo literature is limited, and whose orchestral use overemphasizes the 'comical' or grotesque qualities that are possible on the bassoon), I felt a mission to portray the instrument as it possibly can be, not as it is usually characterized."
Most bassoonists will agree that Zwilich achieved her aims in this concerto, composed for, dedicated to and premiered by Nancy Goeres with conductor Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The first of the two unmarked movements opens in full dramatic mode, with brooding, Romantic melody on the strings accented by severe horns; in this context, the plangent timbre of the bassoon is a welcome relief, bringing a more song-like approach to the opening material. Percussion quickens the tempo for a faster middle section, based on a turn in the opening melody, and the bassoon interacts with the rest of the orchestra. But the return of the opening music emphasizes the bassoon's contrast with the orchestra even more, as short unaccompanied solos alternate with string outbursts before the bassoon settles everything gently down.
The percussion launches the second movement also, as the bassoon gets a chance to display the full range of its timbres and its ability to, in Zwilich's words, "suggest a single line breaking into multiple voices." This becomes especially apparent in a long cadenza, introduced by the first movement's melodic material, that requires every virtuoso technique a bassoon can handle. The quicksilver opening material returns to gradually decelerate and close the work.
- Program Note for orchestral version by Andrew Lindemann Malone for Allmusic
(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Wind Ensemble (Damon Talley, conductor; Darrel Hale, bassoon) – 29 September 2019
- Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Ensemble (Mark Scatterday, conductor; Quinn Delaney, bassoon) – 14 October 2017
- U.S. Navy Band (Washington, D.C.) ( Darrell Partin, conductor; Renee DeBoer, bassoon) - 31 March 2017
Works for Winds by This Composer
- American Concerto (arr. Hill) (1994/2022)
- Ceremonies (1991)
- Concerto for Bassoon (tr. Hill) (1992/2016)
- Fanfare; Reminiscence and Celebration (2010)
- Symphony for Winds. Retitled Ceremonies
- "Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Bassoon Concerto." Allmusic. Web. Accessed 14 October 2017
- Ellen Taaffe Zwilich website Accessed 6 April 2021
- Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Ellen Taaffe Zwilich." Accessed 14 October 2017
- The Horizon Leans Forward…, compiled and edited by Erik Kar Jun Leung, GIA Publications, 2021, p. 527.
- Tim Hill, personal correspondence, October 2017