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Trio for Three Bassoons. Although he was born in Germany, Stefan deHaan (b.1921) more closely resembles the British composers of the mid-20th century. This may be due to his education at the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied both composition and bassoon. His Trio for Three Bassoons fits into the Neo-Classical mold used by other British composers of the time, such as Gordon Jacob and Malcolm Arnold. Each of the movements in this piece resembles Classical era forms, specifically the March, Waltz and Rondo, while utilizing 20th Century tonalities.
Six Trios for Three Bassoons, Op. 4. German composer and bassoonist, Julius Weissenborn, left a valuable impression on the bassoon world. His Complete Method for Bassoon is still the most commonly used tutor by bassoonists today. In addition to this method, Weissenborn composed numerous solo and chamber works, primarily as learning tools for his students. Among these works are his Six Trios for Three Bassoons, a collection of works of varying styles that are often performed both as a complete unit and as individual stand-alone pieces.
The opening Serenade is based upon German church music of the time, primarily the choral He who lets only the living God rule. Although it is technically a one-movement work, it is divided into three distinct sections, the opening Praeludium, a chorale prelude and the allegro finale, which give the trio the feel of a much larger work.
Like other Germanic composers of the era, Weissenborn was also intrigued by the music of Turkey. The Turkish March, with the subtitle “The Midnight Change of the Guard,” shows this idea with its highly ornate, driving forces. The opening motif serves as the primary melodic materials throughout the movement, with occasional variations thrown between the recurring original theme.
Trio for Three Bassoons. Little is known about the composer of this work, German bassoonist Adolf Bergt (1822-1862). An oboe duet and the expansive four movement Trio for Bassoons (only the first movement will be heard today) were his only published works before his suicide in August, 1862. The trio has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence since the Ronald Tyree (1932-2011) edition was published in 1992. Dr. Tyree’s contribution to bassoon literature include editions of bassoon music by Hummel, Telemann, Boismortier, and Weissenborn.
Desert Miniatures: Insects. Composer, Robert McClure writes, “Desert Minatures reflects on my time living in Tucson, AZ and all of the different types of insects that thrive in the Sonoran Desert. Each miniature selects a particular behavior or quality each insect possesses and explores it musically. Separate from the musical depiction of the insects was the central concepts of quasi-unison and the hyper-instrument. Instead of treating the three parts as individually important and mutually exclusive, the parts work together to form an imaginary instrument capable of polyphonic sound production. Through micro-polyphony and rhythmic irregularity, this hyper-instrument performs quasi-unison gestures that resemble columns of sound rather than melodic lines.”
I. Many Hued Grasshopper – “I encountered many of these grasshoppers while hiking in the late summer and early fall months. They are brightly colored with purple and red accents against green wings and powerful light-green legs. As I would walk through tall grasses in the mountains, the path would explode with many grasshoppers leaping all around me. These bursts as well as the grasshopper’s signature buzzing sound are the focal point of the miniature.”
II. Cactus Bee – “These bees are solitary and live underground. They collect the nectar of cactus flowers. The bassoons combine to create a flurry of activity representing a particular bee going about her daily business of collecting nectar and returning to her subterranean nest.”
III. Arizona Red Spotted Purple – “These butterflies employ an ingenious evolutionary tactic for survival: mimicry. They look very similar to the Pipevine Swallowtail, a blueish-black butterfly that is noxious for birds to eat. Even more, the caterpillar of the Arizona Red Spotted Purple employs mimicry through resembling bird droppings or other objectionable material. Mimicry is the primary musical device employed in this miniature.”
IV. Fire Ant – “Anyone who has ever accidentally stepped on a Fire Ant hill knows how painful the stings are. This unfortunately happened to me on my first day as an Arizona resident. While each ant is an individual, the workers carry out simple and direct tasks. It was this quasi-unison behavior plus the martial and driving force of survival that informed the musical treatment of this miniature.”
Tripperies. Tripperies is a collection of four trios originally written for Horn. The inspiration for the set came from a similar set called Bipperies (for two horns), which was inspired by the original set called Fripperies (for solo horn).
Shaw, when asked about the sets wrote: “The first Frippery was written as an exercise for my horn students. There was interest among the band students in forming a dance band, and, as there weren’t too many charts available at that time [for horn], I began writing arrangements for the group. My aim was to give them some idea where those pesky final off-the-beat eights fall within the uneven swing notation.”
“The name ‘frippery’ came about because I was looking for something to suggest the frivolous, fun, light-hearted nature of the music. The word ‘fripperies’ came to mind, and it was several years later when I finally looked up the real meaning of the word. Something about a cheap, showy bauble of little intrinsic worth was the nicest of the definitions. Somehow, it stuck.”
In addition to the Fripperies, the first of which were written in the 1960’s and which now number 40, Shaw has written 19 Bipperies, 4 Tripperies, 8 Quipperies, and 13 “Just Desserts” for solo horn with optional string bass parts – and counting.
We think the Tripperies work well for bassoon trio as well!
Trio for Three Bassoons Op. 17 no. 2. François-Henri-Joseph Blaze (known as Castil-Blaze), was a French musicologist, music critic, composer, and music editor. Castil-Blaze was a contemporary of Hector Berlioz and was often critical of his bombastic style. This aesthetic preference shows in the more classically-styled trio.
A large part of his activities consisted of adapting French and foreign opera for different stages in French provinces, hoping to permit part of the public to become familiar with opera. He is the author of various books and articles on the theory of music, music history, and the history of the theater.
The Trio in C Major is one of the landmark pieces for bassoon trio.
–Robert Bedont, Travis Jones, & Martin J. Van Klompenberg