Reasonable Sounds: Your Daily Magic Bassoon

210px-FoxBassoonHave been playing chamber music with a bunch of amateur musicians recently, and although it’s mostly strings and piano (a classic combo), a friend who is a good bassoonist is part of the mix.

This tenory-y double reed is the underappreciated star of the woodwinds, and I have no less an authority than the Grove Dictionary of Music to back me up:

In [18th century] Germany the bassoon was considered indispensable in the orchestra (even if not always given an independent part) as a means of consolidating and clarifying the bass line. Writing in 1784–5, C.F.D. Schubart asserted that the bassoon was able to ‘assume every role: accompany martial music with masculine dignity, be heard majestically in church, support the opera, discourse wisely in the concert hall, lend lilt to the dance, and be everything that it wants to be.’

True, it generally gets typecast as the woozy uncle, or offers a few sarcastic farts to take down the strings’ insufferable ardor now and then. Yet many orchestral wizards brought out the lover, the scamp, and even the ballerina in it.  In particular, Prokoviev and Shostakovich deployed it with skill, disclosing a variety of color and character.

As you probably haven’t had your daily hit of bassoon music, here’s a beautiful sonata by Telemann:

and if you worried about typecasting the Bassoon, bet you didn’t know there were accomplished jazz bassoonists around. Here is one: Paul Hanson (also an accomplished sax player).

So if learning about a double reed was on your Monday morning list, “check” that’s done.

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