Bassoon Concerto in F Op. 75 (1811)
Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826)
Arranged for Contraforte by Brock Imison
- Allegro ma non troppo
- Rondo: Allegro
The German composer Carl Maria von Weber was a contemporary of Beethoven and is best known today for his operas that established the romantic operatic tradition later revolutionised by Wagner.
Visiting Munich in March 1811, over a fortnight Weber wrote a Concertino for the virtuoso clarinettist of the court orchestra Heinrich Bärmann who, with minimal rehearsal, performed it at a Court Concert for King Maximilian of Bavaria. The King was deeply impressed and commissioned two full-length clarinet concertos from Weber for Bärmann. He was also persuaded by the court bassoonist Georg Friedrich Brandt to commission a concerto for bassoon, that has become a staple of the bassoon repertoire, second only in popularity to the concerto by Mozart.
Weber uses his skills as an opera composer to exploit the wide variety of moods the bassoon can convey. The martial first movement sounds like at times it is going to turn into an operatic aria, the bassoon alternating between its very low and very high registers. The second movement could be an operatic aria with a beautiful cantilena style melody for the soloist, ending with a short cadenza. The witty final Rondo movement showcases all the soloist’s technical skill, with rapid changes of register, mood swings and daring staccato passagework, building to an exciting conclusion.
Today’s performance is on the contraforte, a modern development of the contrabassoon, which sounds one octave lower than the bassoon. Developed in Germany in the early 2000s, this totally new design corrects many of the contrabassoon’s acoustic deficiencies, having a much larger dynamic and tonal range and more even intonation and tone colour. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was one of the first orchestras in the world to adopt this exciting new instrument.
Performed: 14 June 2015