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Bassoon Music Reviews

Ronald Klimko

Moscow, Idaho


Editions Viento (8711 SW 42 nd Ave., Portland, OR 97219-3571 Phone/Fax 503/244-3060), under the edi- torial leadership of bassoonist Gordon Solie, has recently released a series of wonderful transcriptions for multiple bassoons by fellow bassoonist/arranger James Mendenhall. These are excellent transcriptions of literature from composers of the early Renaissance (Josquin des Prez, 1440-1521) to the Baroque (Johann Pachelbel, 1653-1706). The following is a list of these new arrangements:


Six Fantasies for Three Bassoons (Works by Holborne,

Blancks, Lupo, Byrd, East and du Caurroy)


EV 321

Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706): Canon and Gigue for Three Bassoons and Contrabassoon (Note: This is NOT the illustrious Pachelbel Canon!) EV 430 $8.00

Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605): Fantasia à 4 for Four Bassoons EV 431 $8.00

Josquin des Prez (c. 1440-1521): Four Works for Four Bassoons (Viva le Roy; Ave Maria; Absolon, fili mi; and Scaramella) EV 432 $10.00

William Byrd (1543-1623): Browning for Five Bassoons EV 510 $10.00

Josquin des Prez: La Spagna for Five Bassoons or Four Bassoons and Contrasting Bass Instrument (playing the “bassadanza” cantus firmus melody) EV 511 $7.00

Jacob Handl (1550-1591): Hodie Christus natus est for Six Bassoons in Two Choirs EV 602 $6.00

Michael Praetorius (1571-1621): In dulci jubilo for Eight Bassoons (Two Choirs of Four Bassoons) EV 804 $8.00

Michael Praetorius: Resonet in laudibus for Four Oboes and Three Bassoons, or Two Oboes, Two Treble Voices, and Three Bassoons EV 805 $12.00

All of these arrangements share similar traits: they are

technically in the Grade III (+ or -) level; the top two voices generally are the only ones in tenor clef, with the range never extending beyond c2, making them very useable by a college ensemble of divergent talent (the only exception to that is the Pachelbel Canon and Gigue, where the top three voices are in tenor clef and technically active); all the works contain both

a complete score and excellent, very legibly printed

parts; they are all convincing transcriptions that have

remained very true and faithful to the original music;

the editing of articulations has been done with strong consideration for the characteristics of both the music and the bassoon; dynamics are not indicated, in keep- ing with the character of the original music; and, best of all, they probably would all be fun pieces to play. The total price for the entire Mendenhall series is a mere $76.00-a “steal” for an active bassoon ensemble.

I recommend these excellent transcriptions strongly for your consideration.


Editions VIENTO has also undertaken a new series of transcriptions by the popular solo bassoon artist George Zuckerman. These are adaptations of fairly well-known works for the bassoon that were originally written for instruments other than bassoon and piano that the “unashamed transcriber” has used over the years in his many concert tours. The first two works

in this new series are:

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868): Introduction, Theme and Variations for Bassoon and Piano (From the Wind Quartet #6 in F Major) EV UAT #001 $8.00

Those bassoonists who have played the original Rossini Quartets for flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon will recognize this as the last of those six works. It is a single movement composition with a slow introduction followed by a theme with four variations and a spirited finale. In the original, each instrument gets to “show off” with a variation of its own. Here, the bassoon is the whole show! The transcription is very “flashy” and requires some sure technique and quick articulation, albeit in the key of f major/minor. It is a nice, compact arrangement with a good, basic piano accompaniment. Technically, I would place it in the III+ to IV- category, depending on how fast you play the more spirited variations. Range-wise, it extends to high d2, and has some pretty nasty leaps from high to low in the




finale. Overall it is a nice “sparkling” arrangement,

well suited for a brilliant “finale” to your next recital.

I recommend it strongly to you.

W.A. Mozart: Rondo for Bassoon and Piano K. 373 (From the Rondo in C Major for Violin and Orchestra) EV UAT #002 $10.00

In this transcription, George Zuckerman has transposed the work down a whole step from its original key to B flat Major. (In his excellent, humor- ous program notes, the arranger points out that flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal put it up a step to D Major in his transcription, while hornist Barry Tuckwell retained the original C Major.) This is a truly wonderful arrangement of a wonderful piece full of typical Mozartean charm and grace. It would require a very

talented and mature bassoonist to perform the work. For this reason, I place it in the IV- category. (It becomes a IV+, however, if the bassoonist plays the added measure in the final cadenza, which takes the bassoon via a B flat scale up to high f2 with alternating f2’s and e (natural)2’s!! Nevertheless, this measure is

a flashy “addition” that the bassoonist can easily leave

out without hurting the original.) Rather than a finale- type work, however, as the Rossini piece was, this one would fit earlier in a recital and would require delicate artistry by the bassoonist. After all, it IS Mozart, and the “dude” is simply never to be taken lightly! Again a strong recommendation for a nice arrangement.


(Accolade Musikverlag, Austrasse 7 – D-83607


Germany, Tel: 08024-92143, Fax: 92146

Email: Website:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland (Chorale Prelude arranged for Bassoon and String Trio, or Flute (or Oboe, English Horn, or Oboe d’amore) and String Trio) ACC.RO22a

Bassoonist/arranger Mordechai Rechtman has added this new arrangement to his superior collection of transcriptions currently being published by Accolade Musikverlag. He also knows that the purity of style in which the music of the Baroque era was written makes it possible to transcribed the music very convincingly for a number of different instrumental combinations. (This is especially true of Bach, who can even sound convincing played on a synthesizer!) With this transcription Mordechai proves this point by providing us with a wonderful arrangement that can use either the bassoon, flute, oboe, English horn, or oboe d’amore to play the chorale cantus firmus. This florid rendition

of the chorale melody was originally ornamented by Bach himself, and is accompanied by a trio consisting of violin, viola and cello. The arrangement is florid, but not overly difficult technically. The bassoon part rises only to c2, and I would place it as a grade III+ in difficulty. The piece is not very long; however, would probably make an excellent, quiet ‘encore’ fol- lowing another composition (or program) for the same instrumentation. As always, Mordechai’s arrangement of the piece is excellent. Strongly recommended.


Clifford M. Shipp: Ten Variations on a Familiar Theme for Six Bassoons, Contrabassoon and Harp (Editions VIENTO, EV 806 $22.50)

This is a unique work for massed bassoon ensem- ble by Clifford Shipp, who is Professor of Music Emeritus from Montana State University, Bozeman. It is based on the famous 24 th Caprice of Paganini. The top bassoon part is labeled “Solo Bassoon” and carries the burden of technical challenge in the piece, which would make it ideal for a teacher and his/her students in performance. This solo part is a solid III+ technically, but ascends no higher than c2. The tenth variation is a nice cadenza for two bassoons, so the technical requirements for the bassoon I part are also in the III range of difficulty. The other bassoon parts are more in the II+ range. The harp part is also very well written and an integral part of the entire composition. It is featured most prominently in the second, third and eighth variations. The style is essentially tonal, and the original key of a minor is retained throughout. The works ends quietly with a final restatement of the original theme in the solo bassoon with a nice countermelody accompaniment in the harp. I really like this piece. It could be a nice showcase for both teacher and/or students. I recommend it strongly to you.

Bela Bartok: Sonatina (Arranged for Two Oboes, English Horn and Bassoon by Philip Freihofer, 812 Erie St., Oakland, CA 94610-2225, Website:

In recent years, California oboist/composer/arranger Philip Freihofer has specialized in producing beauti- fully self-printed editions of music for double reed ensemble. Anyone who attended last year’s stirring performance of the music to accompany the silent film The Golem at the West Virginia IDRS Conference will be aware of his orchestrational skills. Here, in what he threatens to be his “last double reed arrangement for awhile”, Phil has given us an excellent transcription of the Bartok short, three movement Sonatina, which the composer himself arranged for orchestra under




the name Transylvanian Dances in 1931. This is the “folk-song-like” Bartok at his very best. The movements: “Bagpipe”, “Bear Dance” and “Finale” all exert the delicacy and charm which clearly shows the composer’s fascination and love for the folk music of his native Hungary. Freihofer’s excellent arrangement enhances these qualities throughout. The work is an easy III, with the first oboe part called on for the brunt of the technical demands. It would sound very clear and crisply transparent in the hands of the double reed quintet. I recommend it strongly to you.

Claudio de Freitas: Sextet for Double Reeds for 2 Oboes, English Horn, 2 Bassoons and Contrabassoon. Editoria OSESP. (Claudio Frietas, Alameda Barros, 75/165, Santa Cecilia – São Paulo Capital, CEP 01232-001, Brazil. Email:

Brazilian bassoonist/composer Claudio de Freitas, who has studied in the United States with Arthur Weisberg at Florida’s Harid Conservatory, has been increasingly active as a composer, besides his work as contrabassoonist in the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra. With this work, in his own words:

… I start to think more as a composer now, than as a performer writing for his own instrument.

I would totally agree with his assessment. It is

definitely his strongest and most musical composition

so far, and an important addition to the double reed literature. It was chosen to be performed on a chamber music concert for his orchestra in the 2000 concert season, and was premiered in São Paulo on July 20,


The single-movement work begins with a slow

introduction presenting a three-note motive consisting

of the intervals of a half step, followed by a whole step.

This germinal idea is developed extensively throughout

the contrasting faster middle section before returning, first in another slow section, then toward the end in

a highly dramatic Allegro assai section. This ending

allegro section, however, ends quietly, bringing the work to a dramatic, convincing conclusion. The style is essentially atonal, but not overly pointillistic and quite “atmospheric” as well at times. With this atmospheric-like material, one is reminded of the music of Villa Lobos in its coloration and sometimes repetitive figuration. Technically, it is a solid IV-,

and would require a strong ensemble to play it with conviction. Claudio hopes to perform it at a future IDRS Conference. I would strongly encourage him to do so. But meanwhile interested parties can contact the composer at the above address to obtain copies of the music. I am very impressed with the piece and strongly recommend it to you.


Gernot Wolfgang: Continuum III – Fantasies for a Blue Bassoon (Available for rental from Doblinger Music Publishers, Vienna: For more information, contact the composer at; 2065-67 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90068, Tel: (323) 461-6295, Fax:

(323) 469-1980, email: website:

This is another exciting composition for bassoon from the pen of the incredibly gifted composer, Gernot Wolfgang. (Some of you might remember the perfor- mance of his Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano (1998/1999) at the IDRS Conference in West Virginia last August, 2001. It was very well received and was definitely one of the most impressive works performed at the Conference.) This new work for bassoon and orchestra, is described by the composer in the following words:

“The piece was written in 1997 as a commission by the Vienna based Oesterreichische Kammersymphoniker, and was premieded on Oct. 20, 1997, at the Konzerthaus in Vienna under the baton of Ernst Theis. The featured bassoonist was Martin Machovits, sec- ond chair of the Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna… My wife Judy Farmer will perform the U.S. premiere of the composition on Feb. 22, 2002, at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles together with the USC Chamber Orchestra.”

The 13-minute work is a truly impressive piece of contemporary music and a very significant contribu- tion to the bassoon literature of the 20 th Century. There is no doubt in my mind that Wolfgang is a major composer of our times. His style is that of greatly expanded tonality-more into the atonal range- but uniquely melodic and rhythmic without being overly pointillistic and disjunct. The structure and form are quite clear and concise. There is even an interesting, somewhat tongue-in-cheek “fugal” section in counterpoint as well. This particular work, however, has a lot of “jazz” influence that can be quite clearly heard in both the bassoon and the orchestral parts. It is perhaps one of the most eloquent examples of what composer Gunther Schuller called “third-stream music”, combining the elements of jazz and classical in a unique manner and style. I really like the interesting mood shifts-from that of the deadly serious to the quite humorous and back again, that one often finds in this composer’s music. The bassoon writing is excellent-very “character- istic” for the instrument, but fiendishly difficult. It would require a superior performer to play it. It is a definite Grade IV+. (Fortunately the composer provid-




ed me with an excellent recorded performance by bas- soonist Christoph Eberle and the Symphonieorchester Voralberg along with the score. I am sure that Gernot’s wife, the fine bassoon artist Judy Farmer, will give it a superior American premiere as well.) Even the orchestral writing is very demanding, however, requir- ing 5 difficult full-time percussion parts along with a full chamber orchestra, harp and piano.

This is a wonderful composition, worthy of serious consideration for performance by the best bassoon soloists of our time. I urge you “crème de la crème” to have a look at this work for your next solo/orchestra performance. I have a feeling that the music of Gernot Wolfgang will be around for a long time in the future!