SOLO BASSOON AND ORCHESTRA
by Nadina Mackie Jackson
This is a spreadsheet of 36 concerti for solo bassoon written by Canadian composers. In this list, I include all Canadian works that were envisioned for bassoon and orchestra, including very short pieces that can serve as encores. There are fifteen columns, covering the name of the concerto, composer, date of composition, instrumentation, duration, commissioners/dedicatees, soloist, conductor, premier date, publisher, premier venue, orchestra for premier, premier city, recordings and selected repeat performances. I am actively searching for more Canadian works for bassoon and orchestra and updates will happen over time. To see all the column entries, click on “column visibility”.
Below the spreadsheet are some of my thoughts on bassoon concerti in general.
Commissioner and/or Dedicatee
Repeat Performances (selected)
|Adaskin, Murray||Concerto||1960||Bassoon and (Orchestra)||George Zukerman||George Zukerman|
|Bellemare, Gilles||Arguments||1982||Bassoon and String Orchestra (9 violin parts)||Orchestres Symphonique de Trois-Rivières?||Richard Gagnon||Gilles Bellemare||Orchestre Symphonique de Trois-Rivières Trois-Rivières, Québec|
|Buhr, Glenn||Concerto No. 1||Bassoon and (Orchestra)||Vince Ellin|
|Buhr, Glenn||Concerto No. 2||2010||Bassoon and String Orchestra with Percussion||Nadina Mackie Jackson|
|Buczynski, Walter||Lyric VIII||June 17, 1995||Four Bassoons and Orchestra||Caliban Quartet (Nadina Mackie Jackson, Fraser Jackson, Kathy McLean, Michael Sweeney)||Available in University of Toronto Library archive https://discoverarchives.library.utoronto.ca/downloads/otufm31-walter-buczynski.pdf||Not yet premiered|
|Buczynski, Walter||Lyric X||1994||Bassoon and String Orchestra||Available in University of Toronto Library archive https://discoverarchives.library.utoronto.ca/downloads/otufm31-walter-buczynski.pdf|
|Carravasilis, Constantine||Silver Angel||2015||Bassoon and String Orchestra||18:00||Thirteen Strings & Ontario Arts Council/Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Kevin Mallon||11-Jun-15||St Andrews||Thirteen Strings||Ottawa||https://youtu.be/e9NvfBGjQvU||October 24, 2016, Heliconian Hall, Toronto, led by Composer|
|Coulthard, Jean||Lyric Symphony III||1975||Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra (picc, 2 fl, 1 ob, 2 cl, percussion)||George Zukerman||Jesse Read||CBC Radio Orchestra||Vancouver||Jesse Read, CBC Radio Orchestra, Vancouver, 1994|
|Eckhardt-Gramatté, Sofia||Concerto for Bassoon||1950||Bassoon and Orchestra (check instrumentation)|
|Eckhart-Gramatte, Sofia||Triple Concerto for Clarinet, Trumpet and Bassoon||1949||Bassoon, Clarinet, Trumpet and Orchestra (check instrumentation)|
|Frehner, Paul||Apollo X||2013||Bassoon, Strings and Percussion||18:00||Orchestra London, Ontario Arts Council, Nadina Mackie Jackson, Trudy Chambul||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Alain Trudel||13-Nov-13||Canadian Music Centre||Hyatt Hotel Fundraiser Gala||Orchestra London||London, ON||https://youtu.be/YHcVUyKrIlI||Feb 5, 2016, Centre for Social Inovation, Toronto, group of 27, led by Eric Paetkau; October 11, 2017, Heliconian Hall, Toronto, led by Composer|
|Goldberg, Theo||Concerto?||Bassoon and (Orchestra)||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation||George Zukerman|
|Hétu, Jacques||Concerto Opus 31||Bassoon and Orchestra||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation||George Zukerman||Pierre Hétu||CBC Radio Orchestra||Montreal||Christopher Millard|
|Komorous, Rudolf||Demure charm||1990||Bassoon and Strings with Obbligato Flute||10:30||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation||Michael Sweeney||Hugh Wolff||Oct-90||Canadian Music Centre||Roy Thomson Hall||Toronto Symphony Orchestra||Toronto||CBC __?__||[none that I know of – I think there was not a second perf before McL recording, but you'd have to check with her]|
|Komorous, Rudolf||Concerto||1995||Bassoon and String Orchestra||Jesse Read||1995||CBC Radio Orchestra||Vancouver||IDRS Rotterdam, 1995|
|Leclerc, Simon||Concerto||2017||Four Bassoons, Contrabassoon with String Orchestra and Tympani||Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal||Carlo Colombo, Stéphane Lévesque, Martin Mangrum, Mathieu Harel, bassoons; Michael Sundell, contrabassoon||Kent Nagano||Augst 12, 2017||Membres of l'Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal||Montreal|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Song of Love & Sorrow||02-Feb-17||Bassoon and String Orchestra||03:00||Gift from composer written on date of NMJ's father's death||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Paul Frehner||11-Oct-17||Heliconian Hall||Out of This World||Toronto||https://youtu.be/_lzRozkl-Dc|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Oddbird Concerto||2011||Bassoon, Strings and Percussion||18:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Eric Paetkau||13-Nov-15||TrevCo Music||Trinity St-Paul||group of 27||Toronto||Canadian Concerto Project, MSR 1480||scheduled November 10 and 20, 2020 with Peterborough Symphony and Prince George Symphony, rescheduled to 2021|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Le Dernier Chant d'Ophélie||2008||Bassoon and Strings||09:00||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Alain Trudel||Feb-08||TrevCo Music||Glenn Gould Studio||Toronto Chamber Orchestra||Toronto||Canadian Concerto Project, MSR 1480||2016, Toronto, Drayton, Eugene (Oregon) 2020 Toronto|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Double Concerto for Trumpet and Bassoon||2006||Solo Trumpet and Bassoon with String Orchestra||17:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson & Guy Few||Kevin Mallon||17-Jun-08||TrevCo Music||Grand River Baroque Festival Barn||Grand River Baroque Festival Orchestra||Ayr, ON||Bachanale MSR 1201||2014, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra led by Rose Thomson, Kelwona, Cleland, Vernon|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Bachannale||2008||Trumpet and Bassoon with String Orchestra||09:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Kevin Mallon|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Bassango||2006||Bassoon and String Orchestra||03:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson||(August) 2009||TrevCo Music||Wild Horse Saloon||Just Plain Folks Awards Recipients||Nashville||Bachanale MSR 1201||2014, Brampton Rose Orchesestra, Hattiesberg Univ of Southern Mississipi, Memphis University, 2016 University of Toronto – many uncounted performances|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Spring Lullaby||2007||Bassoon and String Orchestra a duo concerto version for corno da caccia & bassoon||03:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Eric Paetkau||2010||TrevCo Music||Grand River Baroque Festival Barn||Grand River Baroque Festival Orchestra||Ayr, ON||Bachanale MSR 1201|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Fort Coligny||2014||Trumpet and Bassoon with Orchestra||15:00||Orchestra Toronto||Nadina Mackie Jackson & Guy Few||Kevin Mallon||Feb 16 2014||TrevCo Music||North York Performing Arts Centre||Orchestra Toronto||Toronto|
|Lussier, Mathieu||Nightfall, Opus 27||2009||Trumpet, Bassoon & Harp with Wind Ensemble||15:00||American Wind Symphony, Robert Boudreau||Nadina Mackie Jackson, Guy Few &||Michael Purves-Smith||23-Nov-09||Peters||Maureen Forrester Recital Hall||Wilfrid Laurier Wind Ensemble||Waterloo|
|Morawetz, Oskar||Concerto||1994?||Bassoon and (Orchestra)||David McGill||David McGill|
|Morehead, Patricia||Come Dance With Me, The Dance of Life||2014||Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra||09:00||Max Lifchitz||Gilbert Dejean||Max Lifchitz||02-Jun-15||Canadian Music Centre||St Stephen's Episcopal||North South Consonance||New York City|
|Mozetich, Marjan||Concerto for Bassoon and Strings with Marimba||2003||Bassoon and Strings with Marimba||21:40||Ontario Arts Council & Michael Sweeney||Michael Sweeney||Myumi Seiler, leader||Jun-03||Canadian Music Centre||Glenn Gould Studio||Seiler Strings (Via Salzburg)||Toronto||Aficondo A.034401||2007, IDRS Conference, Ithaca; 2008 Via Salzburg, Toronto; 2015, Elgin, Illinois; 2017, Little Switzerland, North Carolina|
|Occhipiniti, Michael||Thirteen Seconds||2013||Trumpet, Bassoon and String Orchestra||07:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson & Guy Few||Eric Paetkau||25-Apr-14||Bloor Street United Church||group of 27||Toronto||Canadian Concerto Project, MSR 1480|
|Occhipiniti, Michael||Sicilian Proverbs||2013||Trumpet, Bassoon and String Orchestra with Percussion||12:00||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Nadina Mackie Jackson & Guy Few||Eric Paetkau||25-Apr-14||Bloor Street United Church||group of 27||Toronto||Canadian Concerto Project, MSR 1480|
|Oickel, Lucas||squeezed from wood||2016||Bassoon and Orchestra||05:22||Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Dinuk Wijeratne||27-Aug-16||St John's Anglican||Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra||Lunenberg, Nova Scotia||https://soundcloud.com/nadina-mackie/4-oickle-squeezed-through-wood||August 28, deCoste Centre, Pictou, August 29, Halifax, St Matthews United Church|
|Raminsh, Imant||Concerto||Bassoon and Orchestra||George Zukerman?||George Zukerman||Hamilton Symphonhy Orchestra||Hamilton|
|Scime, Adam||Concerto||2010||Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra with Piano and Electronics||University of Toronto||Nadina Mackie Jackson||Constantine Caravassilis||24-Jan-11||Walter Hall||New Music Ensemble, Univ of Toronto||Toronto|
|Sharman, Rodney||At Dusk||2002||Bassoon and Strings with Harp||07:30||Michael Sweeney||Michael Sweeney||Myumi Seiler, leader||Jun-03||Canadian Music Centre||Glenn Gould Studio||Seiler Strings (Via Salzburg)||Toronto||Aficondo A.034401 & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbvCkvM_S4M|
|Sokolovic, Ana||Concerto pour basson et sept cordes graves||2009||Bassoon with 4 celli and 3 bassi||Stéphane Lévesque||Stéphane Lévesque||Richard Laing||2009||Queen's Park Sinfonia||Birmingham, UK||Archive recording available to IDRS members||March, 2010, McGill, Contemporary Ensemble led by Denys Bouliane; August 2010 Ottawa Chamber Festival led by Gary Kulesha|
|Trudel, Alain||Carnets de Voyages||2008||Trumpet and Bassoon with String Orchestra and Percussion||Canadian Broadcasting Corporation||Nadina Mackie Jackson & Guy Few||Alain Trudel||08-Feb-08||Glenn Gould Studio||Toronto Chamber Orchestra||Toronto|
|Turner, Robert||Concerto for Bassoon and 17 Instruments||1973||Bassoon and 17 Instruments||George Zukerman||CBC Radio Orchestra|
|Weinsweg, John||Divertimento No 3||1960||Bassoon and String Orchestra||18:00||University of Saskatchewan||George Zukerman||Leeds Music (CMC)||University of Saskatchewan|
|Wuensch, Gerhard (Joseph)||Concerto for Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra||1976||Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra||Gabor Janota?|
What is a concerto?
Most of us think of it as a piece of music that uses a solo instrumental voice to convey the message of the music, an opera featuring a single voice. Some of the more academic amongst us also have historical perspectives on precise form.
I think the concerto is about having an opinion. Maybe that is why Italy shot out of the gate with 39 concerti by Antonio Vivaldi with works so fresh and complex (and short) that we are still performing them, almost 300 years later.
Also about intense collaboration and mustering of all forces. How about the bassoon concerto as a cultural indicator of the general robustness of the classical world?
The solo bassoon concerto is one of the most joyous forms of classical music, uniting and contrasting the distinct and expressive voice of the bassoon (or other instruments, but really, the bassoon) with the exquisite colours of the strings (and other instruments).
There are layers of local cultural assumptions around the idea of the concerto, including which instruments are allowed to be heard as solo voices, which players are allowed to be heard as soloists, which orchestras will program these works and will composers write for solo voices. For after all, there is considerable expense involved in creating these complex works, from the commissioning fees to the copying and preparation of parts, to the hiring of orchestras and soloists, to scheduling and paying for the performances and recordings. It is a big deal. Not to mention learning the concerto.
I think more bassoonists should learn the concerti that have been written for our instrument. Every time that I play a concerto, I hear from audience members who had no idea what the bassoon was capable of. Every time that I play a concerto, I hear from a young person whose imagination and sense of possibility has been triggered. People can relate to concerti immediately. And have an opinion about them. Imagine if audiences had enough live listening opportunities to actually have opinions about multiple concerti and bassoon soloists. And the first time I heard a bassoon concerto was in my first year at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia when our bassoon teacher, Bernard Garfield, played the Mozart Concerto. We were so proud of him!
When I was a young professional starting out in my career as second bassoonist with the Montreal Symphony, it caused a major flurry when I was presented several times as a soloist. One of the male members of my section refused to play those concerts and the orchestra had to hire a substitute member of the bassoon section in the orchestra to accompany me. On a more cheerful note, the other male member of my section was the conductor for some of those concerts. Oh, and I was playing the Mozart concerto.
While there are still some archaic attitudes prevalent in the classical world, times might be changing for the better. No longer is the only bassoon soloist allowed to perform is the leader of the bassoon section for each orchestra, dutifully presenting the Mozart bassoon concerto once every ten years. New concerti are being introduced to audiences and even those section bassoonists are allowed to branch out into contemporary repertoire.
It is still a rare event when a career solo bassoonist is invited to perform with orchestras. And a remarkable event when the concerto has been written in our lifetimes for the player on the stage.
Just as with strings and voice, we need many performers and concerts. Without this, the necessary cross-pollination of multiple influences, the resultant spikes in varied virtuosity, expansive expressivity and general opinions take much longer to happen.
It is so important to have new music created for us, to participate in the voice of our time. And there are so many good concerti for bassoon that audiences need many more opportunities to hear these works.
So back to the question, what is a concerto?
According to composer Eric Funk (backed up by the Encyclopedia Britannica), the origins of the word “concerto” contains two opposing ideas… playing “with” and playing “against”…. Sometimes the solo voice is supported and left free to express, and sometimes it has to fight and speak in an opposing voice. The Italian and English words are that of “agreement” and the other meaning, from the Latin, are of “competing” or “contesting”. This unification of opposing viewpoints is precisely what I love about the concerto form.
And again, you can see the cultural implications of championing this musical form. Imagine the docile bassoonist expressing an opposing viewpoint, leading the orchestra or demanding support or actually having the spotlight to speak their minds.
For many years, Sofia Eckhardt-Grammattée was the only Canadian composer of a bassoon concerto, and a triple concerto, but in fact, she wrote these works prior to emigrating to Canada. We still consider these works to be Canadian because she chose Canada as her forever home, but you can see from the table that it was another decade before another Canadian composer, Murray Adaskin, wrote for the bassoon. In fact, he really wrote for a particular player, George Zukerman. And this is a pattern that has always existed… these works of music for a solo voice have to be imagined with a personality, not in some abstract vacuum.
You can read about the origins of the Adaskin concerto in George Zukerman’s blog, A gift to be simple. George went on to inspire many new works, including concerti, and he even had the courage to pester Shostakovich and Britten for a bassoon concerto, and though that didn’t happen, the effort is still laudable.
Sometimes the soloist who premieres the work is a different person from the one who inspired, fundraised or begged for the work to be created in the first place, and this is good too. And the beauty of this form is that the concerto will sound different in the hands of each and every soloist. The success and evolution of the music depends on repeat performances by many performers, which is why I try to record all of the music written for me. If performance opportunities are sparse, at least interested listeners can access the music.
The next surge in commissions came when Mathieu Lussier wrote several new bassoon and orchestra works for me to perform and record, followed by other wonderful Canadian composers such as Paul Frehner and Constantine Caravassilis.
Some of our top orchestral players have taken the initiative to commission new works, including Michael Sweeney, Stéphan Lévesque and David McGill when he was with the Toronto Symphony in the 90’s. Other wonderful players have taken the initiative to perform and record these works, such as Chris Millard’s recordings of the Hétu and Morawetz concerti, or Jesse Read’s premiering of Jean Coulthard’s Lyric Sympony III. Important to note that some of these concerto commissions came from American organizations (e.g. American Wind Symphony and North South Consonance) or America-born players. Interesting to note that many commissions came from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, back in the day.
OK, what do you think a concerto is?
There is remarkable value of speaking in a solo voice while combining forces with our beloved orchestras. Take a look/listen to what Canada has created thus far. I hope that many more commissions and performances will emerge in the coming years… Italy may have had a head start, but we will catch up!
My next list will be of international composers writing for Canadian bassoon soloists.