Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, Part 3. Articulation. By Terry B. Ewell, Bassoon Digital Professor. BDP #214. Vincent Igusa, bassoon, and Catherine Renggli, piano.;

In the prior videos, I presented recommended editions of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto and discussed playing all of the notes. In this video, we will examine the urtext edition of the work and consider articulations.

It is often unrecognized by today’s musicians that the Classical period is an extension of Baroque performance practice. On January 1st, 1851, European musicians didn’t suddenly wake up and think “Now it is the Classical period, everything is new in music.” No, styles, ideas, and trends in the Baroque period continued well into the Classical period. This is particularly true with concertos.

In the Baroque period, composers and musicians collaborated on the finished product—the performed music. In many ways this is analogous to Jazz performance practice in the 20th and 21st centuries. Every Jazz musician is expected to take the music, which is the chart, and then add their unique performance of it, most often including improvisation. Such was also the Baroque practice of performance. The composer provided a framework of music for the musician to which the performer added flourishes, graces, ornaments, and articulations. This can be seen clearly in the continuo music for the Telemann Sonate in F moll. Telemann provided the keyboard player with a bass line and numbers—referred to as figures. The keyboard musician was then expected to create an accompaniment with the right hand that filled in the part. Accomplished keyboard artists of that time would improvise this accompaniment “on the spot.” For more information about this, please see the seminal work on keyboard playing in the Baroque period:

Bach, Carl Phillip Emanuel. Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen.,


Translation by William J. Mitchell. Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments, New Edition. Ernst Eulenburg Ltd, 1974.

There are several aspects of this performance practice that carry into the Classical period. Improvisation was featured in instrumental cadenzas. Ornamentation was added by performers in solo works. Furthermore, composers expected performers to add articulation to the music.

Finding an urtext edition, that is a version that provides music as close to the autograph as possible, is vital for deciding articulation. Choosing an edition where all the articulation decisions are made by an editor removes freedom of expression from the performer. You should welcome the opportunity to showcase your musical judgement and taste.

Every performer should play the Concerto differently. One would not expect every performance of the jazz standard “Lady Bird” to be identical. In fact, that is abhorrent and antithetical to the very nature of Jazz performance. Likewise, a “cookie cutter” approach to the Concerto makes a mockery of the intent of the concerto during the Classical period.

The Concerto is meant to showcase the musician’s expertise as an innovator and interpreter, not just a technician.

Here is the opening of the solo in the first movement of the Concerto from the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (NMA) website. I have extracted the bassoon part from the online urtext edition. 

Notice how sparse the articulation is. There are very few slurs in the part and few recommendations from the editor.

Let’s compare the NMA edition to the Universal edition of the work, the version that I have performed from for many years. There are a few differences in the articulation, which I have circled in red. In the NMA edition, there is a slur in measure 35 that is not contained in the Universal Edition. This slur is typically played by bassoonists and I perform it as well. In the NMA edition in measure 36 the slur is recommended by the editor. Since this is a repetition of the earlier measure, it makes perfect sense to add it. Milan Turkovic, the editor of the Universal edition, recommends adding a slur in measure 38. Slurring trills into the following note is typical for classical music and this is an excellent recommendation.

A careful study of the Concerto, however, will reveal that there are few slur marks added. Mozart has left decisions about additional slurs up to the performer. The Concerto is thus a partially completed painting on which the performer should add further brush strokes. This is not a “paint by the numbers project” rather you should produce a unique artistic expression.

Certain principles guide the choice of articulation. The choice of slurs can aid in clarity and technical facility. For instance, I find the slurred pairings at the end of the solo section in measure 148 quite helpful:

Adding slurs to the arpeggios, for instance in measures 45-46 may also help clarity. There are several combinations that would work here: two slurred and two tongued, three slurred and one tongued, or all slurred.

Added slurs provide emphasis to notes. Longer notes more audible than shorter notes. Adding slurs helps to bring out the important melodic line: D4-Bb3-F3-D3-Bb2.

Lyricism is aided by adding slurs. For instance, the end of the opening statement in measure 55. This slur, indicated by the dashed line, is recommended by the NMA editor

I encourage you to carefully read the transcript of John Miller’s Master Class on the Mozart Bassoon Concerto. In it Mr. Miller provides some helpful comments on articulation in the Concerto.

Ewell, Terry B. John Miller’s Master Class on the Mozart Bassoon Concerto K191. The Double Reed 28/1 (Winter 2005): 63-68.

Choices of articulation are just the start to your individual expression of the Concerto. In the next video, I will present how ornamentation in the Concerto can further demonstrate your innovation as a performer.

<Music: Vincent Igusa, bassoon, and Catherine Renggli, piano. Towson University Recital Hall, 20 June 2017.>