The concept of a performer purposely omitting one or even two notes from a standard work is appalling to today’s performer. Indeed, in the last two decades or so many in our field have demonstrated a scholarly zeal to produce accurate performance editions of masterpieces of our repertoire. Evidence of an informed approach to the literature is seen in several recent publications by Universal Edition and Bassoon Heritage Edition edited by William Waterhouse, Milan Turkoviç, and others. Ours is a generation concerned with minutia, laboring to correct every notational error contained in our performance canon. In light of the exacting care of our generation, the contention of this article—that performances of standard concerti omit hundreds of notes written by a composer—will doubtless produce great consternation. Indeed, if the writings contained here are true, our favorite artists and our best recordings have neglected precious music which was intended to be performed by composers on our instruments.
A modern notion of a concerto might be characterized as a soloist contrasted or even opposed by an orchestra, thus it is cast as a musical struggle with each force seeking to assert musical dominance over the other—contending. This idea of contending dates prior to the twentieth century and came into primacy in the Romantic Period, that is during the nineteenth century. The adoration and even worship of the genius figure in the Romantic Period might have played a role in the codification of this concept of contending in the concerto. More so than any other musical form, the concerto is musically analogous to the struggle of a sole voice (genius) against plebeian forces. Interpreting the first movement of a concerto in a narrative fashion, this movement could be seen as the struggle of the voice of the genius (the soloist) to be heard and recognized above the noise of the common people (the orchestra). The final triumphant recognition of the voice of the genius comes in the cadenza when the common people (the orchestra) are mute.
In addition to the genius worship of the Romantic Period, technical developments in instrumentation may have further promoted this concept of contending. The development of the piano no doubt brought the idea of contending in the concerto to ascendancy, for finally there was a single instrument capable of the breadth of harmony and to some extent volume produced by an orchestra. This treatment of the soloist as a musical equal to the orchestra may be observed in the Classical Period, for instance, in W. A. Mozart’s piano concerti. Later in history the single-voiced instruments also asserted their musical equality, and engaged in a friendly rivalry with the orchestra. Weber’s bassoon concerto, Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, and Dvorak’s ‘cello concerto are excellent examples of this musical jousting between orchestra and soloist.
The concept of musical equality between soloist and orchestra is normative in twentieth century concerti. The Gordon Jacob Concerto for Bassoon and Strings, despite its neoclassical features, clearly forwards this modern viewpoint. The second movement demonstrates that the bassoon is considered the musical equal of the orchestra, for the bassoon introduces the principal theme first, not the string orchestra. The Strauss Oboe Concerto—with its many lyrical passages for the soloist—also features the oboe as a musical equal competing for attention. Other concerti by Rachmaninov (piano), Bartok (violin), Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue), and others further illustrate this point.
Our view of the concerto has thus been colored by two centuries of music. Our error, however, lies in the assumption that concerti of the Baroque and Classical periods feature the orchestra and soloist in the same way as concerti of the later periods. A careful examination of writings and musical literature from the periods will reveal our mistaken assumptions. The Baroque concept of the concerto is far broader than our modern notion of a concerto. Many early sources relate the word “concerto” to the Italian verb concertare which means to arrange, agree, or get together. The earliest appearance of the word is found in the title “unconcerto di voci in musica” (Rome, 1519), which refers to a vocal ensemble. Throughout much of the Renaissance and early Baroque period, the concerto is a concert piece, often simply a work written for a collection of instruments. Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor F. XII, no. 6 (Pincherle no. 360) exemplifies this sense of the word (Fig. 1). Note that there is no string orchestra in this concerto, just soloists and cemballo. The Baroque concept of concerto, however, also includes the idea of contending or competing. Both meanings of the word concerto—coming together and contending—were current in the Baroque era. The Baroque theorist Johann Mattheson writes of these two meanings: Concertos, broadly speaking, are [musical] gatherings and collegia musica, but in a strict manner of speaking, this word is often taken to mean chamber music for both voices and instruments (i. e. a piece actually so named), and, more strictly still, pieces for strings [Violin Sachen] composed in such a way that each part in turn comes into prominence and vies, as it were, with the other parts; hence also in such pieces and others where only the uppermost part is dominant, and where among several violins one, called Violino concertine, stands out on account of its especially rapid playing.
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Our modern conception of the concerto has lost the sense of coming together and instead retained only the sense of competing. This is where our error lies. If anything, the Baroque concerto acknowledges a Medieval influence, not a modern or Romantic bias. Individual parts or solo lines are integrated into a collective unity. A solo instrument is not set in opposition to the whole, rather it is highlighted and featured in certain places only to be subsumed into the larger group in other passages. In short, the soloist is instructed to perform both as a soloist and as a member of the ensemble. The principal violin part in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is but one example of this dual nature of the soloist.
In the outer movements of the majority of concerti written by Vivaldi for solo instrument, strings, and cembalo the soloist starts as an ensemble member and later emerges as soloist. The ritornello form of these movements features alternations of tutti sections with passages featuring the soloist accompanied by the lower strings and cembalo. Figure 2, the opening of the
third movement of Vivaldi’s
Concerto for Oboe, Strings, and Cembalo, F. VII, no 14 (Pincherle no. 331), presents a microcosm of the ritornello form.
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Note that the oboe alternatively is an ensemble member doubling the first violin part and then is a soloist with its own unique notes. The oboist should play all the notes whether they double ensemble members or not. Similarly this alternation between tutti and solo passages may be found on a larger scale in almost all of Vivaldi’s concerti. For example, Figures 3 and 4 give portions of the first movement from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Bassoon, Strings, and Cembalo in A Minor, F. VIII, no. 7 (Pincherle no. 72).
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Note that the bassoon doubles the lower strings in the opening tutti section. This doubling continues all the way until the bassoon “solo” in measure 33 (not shown). These notes are not cues for the bassoon soloist. Each note was carefully penned by Vivaldi indicating his desire for the soloist to join the ensemble during the tutti sections. To leave these notes unplayed is to alter the sound of the entire passage. Measure 69 in Figure 4 is of particular interest because Vivaldi has the bassoon complete the solo line and join the tutti strings one measure after their entrance. This gives further evidence that Vivaldi carefully considered the needs of the performer even during the tutti sections. When Vivaldi wished a performer to tacet he was quite capable of writing rests. The opening of the second movement of Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in A Minor, F. VIII, no.7 is a one example where the bassoon is tacet for many measures (Fig. 5).
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Although the majority of concerti written in the Baroque period follow a model where the soloist joins the accompanying instruments, there are examples where the soloist is featured only in solo passages. In the first movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for Bassoon, Strings, and Cembalo, F. VIII, no. 11, Pincherle no. 381 (Fig. 6), the composer experiments with a format that comforms to the modern common conception of the concerto. The bassoon is tacet during the tutti sections and only performs in the solo sections. The Handel oboe concerti also follow this model. Rarely, if ever, does the soloist become a member of the tutti ensemble.
The majority of Classical wind concerti follow the Baroque model with the solo instrument joining the orchestra in the tutti passages. Mozart’s concerti for solo winds employ the Baroque model, whether they were written early in his life as in the Bassoon Concerto, KV 191; towards the middle of his life as in the Flute Concerto in G major, KV 313; or late in his life as in the Bassettklarinette Concerto, KV 622 (most often performed on clarinet). Although there is some disagreement about whether the oboe starts with the orchestra in the opening tutti of the Concerto in C Major, KV 314 (written in 1777) — it is clear that the flute version of the work in D major — KV 314 (written in 1778) — does have the soloist begin with the orchestra. Other composers follow the Baroque practice as well. Stamitz’s Bassoon Concerto has the soloist join the orchestra in tutti sections, as does Haydn’s Symphonie Concertante, Hob. I:105 (for solo oboe, bassoon, violin and cello), and Haydn’s Concerto for Clarino (trumpet), Hob. VIIe, 1.
Given the innumerable recordings of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, it is shocking that this article asserts that yet another recording should be made of the work. However a careful study of the score reveals that we may yet have never heard the concerto recorded in its full glory! Figure 7 supplies the score to the opening of the concerto. Note that the bassoon doubles the lower strings much as we observed earlier in the Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto in A minor (Fig. 3 and 4). If a soloist were to omit performing the opening tutti passage, almost 175 notes from Mozart’s own hand would be discarded. Leaving out the bassoon part radically alters the timbre of the tutti section, for the score indicates that the orchestra contains no bassoon performer. If the solo bassoon does not perform the part, there will be no bassoon sound in the passage. The second and third movements also start with the bassoon joining the orchestra, calling once again for the bassoon to join the orchestra and join the orchestra as an member of the ensemble in the Baroque tradition of the concerto.
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At this point the reader might have several questions. For instance, how does the performer cope with the additional demands on the embouchure? The music of Vivaldi, Haydn, and Mozart indicate that they understood wind players’ limitations of endurance, for all their concerti for brass instruments prescribe less playing time for the soloists during tutti sections than concerti for woodwind or string soloists. Furthermore, one can think of other compositions which would be even more taxing than the performing all the notes of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, for example. Surely a bassoonist performing Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro faces an endurance problem as well, but this is hardly a justification for leaving out entire passages of that opera. If necessary, a soloist may have a second instrumentalist seated with the orchestra to perform the tutti passages. This, however, should be a solution employed only as a last resort. Remember that the Baroque and Classical notion of the concerto is dual: contending and coming together. If the soloist omits the tutti passages, the soloist is only projecting one aspect of the meaning of the word “concerto.”
Further obstacles no doubt occur to the reader: the need to memorize even more notes for a performance or the breaking of tradition by performing concerti in a new manner. Indeed, there is a price to be paid for performing all the notes written by a composer for your instrument. The added work of memorization and the discomfort of playing a concerto in a manner different than your favorite recording artist are difficulties to be overcome. However, the evidence is clear that composers from the Baroque and Classical period wrote notes for the soloists to perform during the tutti passages. We must break with Romantic and twentieth-century traditions if we are to restore the performance traditions of the composers’ time.
Even if the performer is willing to perform the “missing notes,” one further challenge remains. The performer must obtain an edition of the music which includes all the notes penned by the composer. Many editors have deleted the tutti passages from the solo parts with no indication to the performer. Furthermore, editorial additions in the past hundred years or more have so distorted many editions of Baroque and Classical works that the performer is unable to distinguish between original markings and later revisions, emendations, or glosses. Whenever possible, musicians should seek out Urtext editions of the work. The German word Urtext is roughly translated to mean original version. A well-edited Urtext edition clearly distinguishes between markings by the composer and additions by the editor. Most often additions by an editor will appear in square brackets [ ].
The appendix to this article lists recommended editions of several bassoon and oboe concerti. These editions often cost more, or sometimes are only available in library collections. However, if a performer is to correctly perform the composer’s music they must be consulted.
Despite the difficulties for the modern performer there are certain advantages to playing all the notes written in the tutti sections. By performing with the orchestra in the opening tutti the player is warmed up for the first solo entrance, and by playing the other tutti sections the performer is entirely engaged during the whole concerto. The awkward tacets at the end of concerti are also avoided. More than one performer has felt discomfort while waiting for the Mozart Bassoon Concerto to end after the last solo passage in the third movement. Some have even gone so far as to write a new bassoon part to perform with the concluding tutti. Why not simply perform the notes Mozart wrote for the bassoon? It is an elegant way to end a marvelous work. This article presents double reed performers with the opportunity to charge to the vanguard of historically informed performance practices. We have shown that the modern notion of the concerto—contending—is but a part of the Baroque and Classical meaning of the word. To this day most if not all of our compatriots on other woodwind and brass instruments still perform the standard concerti of the Baroque and Classical periods from a distorted modern viewpoint. Members of the International Double Reed Society have the chance to restore the performance practices of Baroque and Classical concerti and by doing so to distinguish themselves among their colleagues. Let the missing notes resound!
About the Author …
Dr. Terry Ewell draws upon a varied career of professional and academic experience. He was the first winner of the Fernand Gillet Competition of the International Double Reed Society. His experience as a professional have included seven years as principal bassoon of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and 10 more years as a freelancing musician in Washington and West Virginia. He has performed as a soloist with the Seattle Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic under the direction of Gerard Schwartz and Jahja Ling. He has recorded for
Musical Heritage Society, Pickwick Records, and Hong Kong Records. Dr. Ewell holds a Ph. D. in music theory from the University of Washington. His writings appear in five different journals on a variety of subjects. He is one of the first recipients of an IDRS Special Project grant to complete a bassoon fingering database for World Wide Web. Currently Dr. Ewell serves as Associate Professor of Bassoon and Music Theory and Chair of the Division of Music at West Virginia University.
SUGGESTED EDITIONS OF BASSOON CONCERTI
Bach, Johann Christian. Concerto in E-flat for
Bassoon and Orchestra. Wojciechowski, Johannes
editor. Hamburg: Musikverlag Hans Sikorski, 1953.
Although this is not urtext, it appears to be a clean
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Turkoviç, Milan editor.
Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra K. 191 (186e),
edition for piano and bassoon. Vienna: Universal
Edition, 1987 (see Figure 4). Also refer to the Neue
Mozart-Ausgabe (Bärenreiter) 1981 Serie V, which is
available in most university libraries. For performance
suggestions readers should refer to David J. Ross
(Frederick Neumann) “Ornamentation in the Bassoon
Music of Vivaldi and Mozart” part 2, The Double Reed
9/3 (Winter 1986): 40-48.
Stamitz, Karl. Concerto in F for Bassoon and
Orchestra. Johannes Wojciechowski editor, first edition
for bassoon and piano. Hamburg, Musikverlag Hans
Sikorski, 1956. Although it is not urtext, it appears to
be a clean copy.
von Weber, Carl Maria. Concerto for Bassoon and
Orchestra in F Major, Op. 75. Milan Turkoviç and
William Waterhouse editors, edition for bassoon and
piano. Vienna: Universal Edition, 1990. Also read
William Waterhouse, “Weber’s Bassoon Concerto Op.
75: The Manuscript and Printed Sources Compared,”
The Journal of the International Double Reed Society 14
______. Andante e Rondo Ungarese for Bassoon and
Orchestra, Op. 35. Milan Turkoviç and William
Waterhouse editors, edition for bassoon and piano.
Vienna: Universal Edition, 1991.
Vivaldi, Antonio. Concerti for Bassoon, Strings, and
Cembalo. The Ricordi publications are often the best,
but occasionally they leave out the tutti notes. Be sure
to consult the critical editions of the works of Antonio
Vivaldi published by Ricordi, which are available in
many university libraries. The reader will find it
helpful to refer to Noriko Ohmura’s A Reference
Concordance Table of Vivaldi’s Instrumental Works
(Tokyo: Academia Music, 1972) pp. 66-68 when seeking
to locate a particular concerto in the critical editions.
SUGGESTED EDITIONS OF OBOE CONCERTI
AND OTHER LITERATURE
Compiled by Cynthia Anderson, assistant professor of
oboe and music theory, West Virginia University.
Bach, Carl Philipp Emanual. Concerto for Oboe in
Bb. Kunzelmann. Not urtext, but of interest.
Bach, Johann Sebastian. Concerto for Oboe
D’Amore in A (after BWV 1055). Barenreiter.
Handel, George Frederic. Hallische Handel Ausgabe
[The Complete Works of Handel]. Barenreiter.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Concerto for Oboe in C,
K. 314. Barenreiter. Refer to the Neue Mozart Ausgabe
(1981, Series V/14 vol. iii). Also see Geoffrey Burgess,
“A New Edition of the Mozart Oboe Concerto, K.314: A
Checklist to Correct the Boosey & Hawkes Edition,”
The Journal of the International Double Reed Society 14
______. Oboe Quartet in F, K. 370. Barenreiter.
Telemann, Georg Philipp . Quartet in G Tafelmusik
1733 1/2, for flute, oboe, violin, and basso continuo.
______. Overture and conclusion in D Tafelmusik
1733 11/1, for oboe, trumpet, strings, and basso
1. Portions of this article were presented at the 1996 International Double Reed Society Conference in Tallahassee, Florida. The author gratefully
acknowledges the support of the West Virginia University Foundation for the presentation of the paper in Florida.
2. Two examples are: Johann Ernst Galliard, William Waterhouse, editor, Six Sonatas for the Bassoon or Violoncello with a Thorough Bass for the Harpsichord
(Florida: Bassoon Heritage Edition). W.A. Mozart. Milan Turkoviç, editor, Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra K. 191 (186e), edition for piano and bassoon
(Vienna: Universal Edition, 1987).
3. The organ obviously could make this claim centuries earlier. However, even to this day it rarely enjoys the position of a solo instrument in a concerto.
4. Please refer to “Concerto” in The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 4 (London: MacMillan Publishers, 1980), p. 627.
5. Das neu-eröffnete Orchestra (Hamburg: 1713), p. 193f. Quotation from Michael Talbot, Vivaldi (New York: Schirmer Books, 1992), p. 107.
6. See Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for two trumpets, strings, and cembalo, F. IX, no. 1; Vivaldi’s Concerti in F major for 2 horns, strings, and cembalo,
F.X, nos. 1 and 2; Haydn’s Clarino (trumpet) Concerto Hob. VIIe, 1; and Mozart’s Concerto for Horn in Es, KV 417.