With my Bassoon Concerto I was able to complete my cycle of concerti for each of the principal four woodwinds. While my Flute and Oboe concerti are of a more serious nature, those for clarinet and bassoon are lighter in mood. As the bassoon's voice is a comparatively modest one, I pared down the orchestra to a group of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons (in order to provide the occasional potential for building a sort of "mega-bassoon"), two horns, harp, timpani, percussion (one player), and strings.
The concerto is cast in the traditional three movement (fast-slow-fast) form and is meant in large part simply to provide pleasure. I realize that such an intent is now looked upon with suspicion is some quarters, but I have never felt that every work of art is required to plumb the depths and secrets of human existence. Sometimes twenty minutes spent in the company of, I hope, a genial companion can be the most meaningful way of passing time. I did, however, try to resist making too much of the bassoon's oft-heralded role as the "clown" of the orchestra. While there are occasional forays into the more "comical" lower range of the instrument, more time is spent in the middle and upper tessitura of the bassoon, and melodic lines often tend toward the lyrical. Overall there is a collegial relationship between soloist and orchestra, unlike the common "soloist against the orchestra" paradigm of many romantic era concerti.
Completed on February 2, 2017, the concerto was a joint commission of the Saint Louis Symphony, Sydney Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, and Lausanne Chamber Orchestras. It received its premiere performance on November 16, 2018 with Andrew Cuneo as soloist and Cristian Macelaru leading the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
© 2018 by Christopher Rouse
These program notes can be reproduced free of charge with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Christopher Rouse