Thursday, February 11, 2021

Rossini - Bassoon Concerto

 From the years 1812 to 1822 Gioachino Rossini wrote thirty operas, or the average of three every year for ten years. These works were his most popular, and he wrote nine more up to the year of 1829 when his last famous opera, 'William Tell' was written. It was the last opera Rossini was to write, as he went into a forty year retirement. He wrote some music during these last forty years, including in the last ten years of his life a collection of 150 pieces in various forms that he called Péchés de vieillesse, or Sins Of Old Age.  There had been rumors that Rossini had written a bassoon concerto, but it wasn't until the 1990's that a manuscript score was found in a library in Italy of a bassoon concerto which on the front piece states that it was by Rossini.

The story goes that Rossini had written the work for Nazareno Gatti, a bassoon student, for his final examination.  Rossini was an advisor at the music school in Bologna where Gatti attended, but scholars aren't sure how much Rossini was involved with writing the concerto. He may have sketched it out for someone else to finish, as he did with many of his compositions during his retirement. Some say Gatti finished it, or Gatti may have wrote the entire work and put Rossini's name to it. In any event, scholars agree it was written in the 1840's and in the style of Rossini. If it truly was written by Rossini, it would represent his final work for orchestra, as the aforementioned Péchés de vieillesse were chamber works or solo piano.

I. Allegro - The work opens in the key of B-flat major with the orchestra stating the themes of the movement as per usual in a concerto, especially this movement that is built more in Classical era form and techniques than Romantic.  The bassoon enters and plays  the first theme along with punctuations of the low registers of the instrument. The orchestra begins the second theme with light pizzicato violins. The clarinets play along with the soloist and the music goes into the development section.  The soloist gets a chance to show off the instrument and after the recapitulation a short coda allows the bassoon to reach the heights and depths of its range as the music comes to a close.

II. Largo - The music shifts from B-flat major to C minor, a key quite distant from B-flat major.  In this lyrical movement the bassoon sings as if it is a soloist in a scene from an opera. The tonal range of the movement showcases the bassoons unique timbre changes in its registers. The movement ends with dramatic tremoloes in the strings as the music fades away.

III. Rondo - The plethora of notes for the soloist doesn't let up in the finale, nor their extreme ranges. The music is in the key of F major, something different than many concertos of this time as it isn't in the same key of the first movement. The title page of the manuscript states that it is a Concerto da Esperimento , or an Examination Concerto. The music truly is a test for the soloists technical and musical abilities. The question of its authorship not withstanding, this concerto is a fine representation of what the bassoon can do in the hands of a virtuoso, and is a valuable addition to the repertoire. 


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