Friday, January 10, 2014

Weber - Andante And Hungarian Rondo For Bassoon And Orchestra

 The bassoon, along with the cello and string bass, is a primary part of the bass register in the modern symphony orchestra. The modern bassoon has evolved from earlier keyless forms of bass double reed instruments called dulcians. It was during the 19th century when increased demands for range, volume control and tone quality caused instrument makers to improve the instrument.

The bassoon also has a place in chamber music, and solo concertos have been written for it. One of the most played works for bassoon and orchestra is Weber's Andante And Hungarian Rondo For Bassoon And Orchestra, especially in a version for piano and bassoon that many students of the bassoon have had to struggle through.  The first version of this work was written in 1809 for his brother, who played the viola. The basoonist Georg Friedrich Brandt asked Weber to arrange it for the bassoon in 1813. Weber didn't make very many changes in the work as he knew full well the capabilities of Brandt, one of the leading players of the day.   Weber must have enjoyed the challenge of concerto writing, for he wrote over a dozen for various instruments, many of them being for wind instruments.

The work is in two sections:
I. Andante - A theme and short set of variations. The theme is in the mood and tempo of a siciliana, a slow dance with origins in Italy in the early Baroque period. There are three variations on this theme. The two bassoons in the accompanying orchestra join in with the soloist in a trio of bassoon-ness. After the last variation where the baassoon chatters away as the orchestra plays the theme, a short bridge section leads directly to the second movement.

II.  Hungarian Rondo - The bassoon plays the 'Hungarian' tune to begin the rondo. As  'Turkish' music of roughly the same period was not actually turkish tunes,  'Hungarian' music was not actually hungarian tunes. Both kinds of music were ways composers introduced different exotic rhythms and instruments to their music. Weber's music may resemble a form of hungarian dance called Verbunkos, but the resemblance is slight and as with most examples of Hungarian-styled music of the time, owes as much to music of the Romani (Gypsy) people who lived in Hungary as anything else. The tune is a skipping, rather light-hearted tune that brings out the humorous side of the bassoon. As in the first movement, Weber has the bassoons of the orchestra join in with the soloist for more examples of bassoon-ness. The theme is interlaced between episodes of differing material with the bassoon always in the forefront. The bassoon goes off on a tear of triplets near the end and finishes up with a scurry of notes to end the work.

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