Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, Part 2. Playing the “Missing" Notes. By Terry B. Ewell, Bassoon Digital Professor. BDP #213. Vincent Igusa, bassoon, and Catherine Renggli, piano.
<Music: Vincent Igusa, bassoon, and Catherine Renggli, piano. Towson University Recital Hall, 20 June 2017.>

1. I have a few questions for you. When you perform a composition, do you play all of the notes written by the composer? Do you pick and choose which notes to play or which to ignore? What if everyone else left out notes the composer wrote, would you be brave enough to play the notes given by the composer?

2. These questions might sound very strange to you. Hasn’t everyone been playing all of the notes written for our instruments? You might be shocked to find out that this is not the case. By the time you finish this video, you will understand the issues more fully.

3. Let’s begin by examining some autographs, that is, original manuscripts, penned by Mozart. Unfortunately, the autograph of KV 191, the bassoon concerto, is missing so we will need to observe other works. However, the details we observe in these autographs can be directly applied to the bassoon concerto.

4. This is a picture of the autograph for the first page of the Concerto No. 3 for Horn in E flat Major. Notice that here Mozart has written a unique part for the Horn in the opening tutti section. There are rests in the part and then the horn joins in with the orchestra as a supporting, not solo instrument. This example presents the music in print, with the same horn part highlighted. If the soloist does not play here in the tutti passage, the ensemble is altered significantly. I suspect, however, that few horn soloists perform the highlighted notes when they play the concerto.

5. This is a picture of the autograph for the first page of the Concerto for Violin K219 in A Major. Notice that the principal violin part is marked “Col. 1me violin” which means the solo violin part performs the same notes as the first violin part in the opening. The next figure is the score to the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (NMA) of this Concerto. Highlighted is the solo violin part, which doubles the opening tutti with the first violin part in the score. The notation for the solo part is thus identical to the violin 1 part. You can see this in the printed addition of the score.

6. However, when we examine the solo violin part, something has changed. The top portion is the beginning of the tutti section. Observe the smaller note heads here in tutti section. However, in the solo part, below the line the notes are presented at full size. The editor has chosen to present the violin part in the tutti sections with smaller notes, implying in some way that they are less important than the larger notes.

7. Now we observe two editions of the bassoon Concerto. Before I point out the problems with the editions, please understand that both editions made very important contributions to bassoon performance. The Guetter edition was one of the first available to bassoonists in the USA that provided cadenzas and performance suggestions by an accomplished performer. The Weisberg edition, published by International Music Company, made the Concerto widely available at an affordable cost. The scholarship we now rely upon was not readily available and often not understood by these performers at the times of their editions.

8. Now, notice that neither edition has any notes for the bassoon in the opening passage. In both instances the bassoon has no given notes in the tutti section.

9. Here is the Universal Edition of the work edited by Milan Turkovich. Notice that notes are included in the beginning for the bassoon part, but they are smaller in size. This small font size continues throughout the first tutti section until the solo starts.
Now let’s examine the definitive edition of the work that is part of the Neue Mozart Ausgabe.

10. The opening features full size notes in the solo bassoon part that double the cello part. This is quite typical for concertos in the Baroque and Classical periods. The full-sized notes continue up and through the bassoon solo.

11. Many early Italian sources relate the word “concerto” to the Italian verb concertare which means to arrange, agree, or get together. In addition, the Baroque concept of concerto also includes the concept of contending or competing. This coming together and contending is well displayed in the Concerto in the tutti and solo passages. The soloist comes together with the orchestra in the tutti sections and competes with the ensemble in the solo sections.

12. If you are interested in a more detailed historical overview of the “missing notes” please read my article:

Ewell, Terry B.  “Playing those ‘Missing’ Notes in Baroque and Classical Concerti”. The Double Reed 20/1 (1997).

13. Several years ago, a student of mine at West Virginia University was performing in the regional MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) competition. She played the first movement of the Concerto and did perform the tutti section notes written by Mozart. One of the judges, a wind player, wrote in the comments that the student should not perform the cues. Even though this person was selected as an expert by the MTNA to judge the competition, this musician demonstrated complete ignorance on the subject.

14. I fault to a degree the editors of the Baroque and Classical concertos. Many have left out the tutti notes altogether. Others have perpetuated the misconception by printing smaller notes, thus giving the impression that they are cues. But I ask you, how many cues have you ever seen in music that go on for line after line? Any observant musician would suspect that something other than cues is happening here.

15. So, we now understand all the notes that Mozart wished the bassoonist to play are those in both the tutti and solo sections. These include hundreds of notes that most performers neglect to play. The performance practice of our time is modelled after the Romantic ideal of the soloist verses the orchestra, a solitary genius standing up to the plebian masses, as it were. How do we in our day and age restore the music to the intent of the composers in the Classical and Baroque eras?

<music: Vivaldi, La Notte, BDP# 21. Starting at 2:49 min.>

16. For my part, with just a few exceptions, I play the missing notes when performing with orchestras or in chamber music settings. One example of this is my performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto La Notte, which is more of a chamber piece than a concerto in the Romantic and modern sense. You can observe my performances in videos on YouTube and A visit to will give you access to the bassoon music, which I have specially edited for you.

Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto "La Notte" [The Night] part 1 (2007, BDP #21)

Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto "La Notte" [The Night] part 2 (2007, BDP #22) 

17. I choose to play all of the notes in the first and third movements of the Mozart Bassoon concerto. However, in the second movement, I find it more appealing to modern audiences—and less taxing on me—to omit the tutti notes with the strings. I suggest having a bassoonist sit in the orchestra and play the tutti notes in all of the movements, including those in the second movement. The soloist could then double in the first and third movement tutti sections.

18. Many bassoonists are uncomfortable with the end of the third movement. The bassoonist finishes the solo section and just stands there looking “pretty” while the orchestra concludes the work. Leonard Sharrow confided in me his discomfort with this ending and even advocated performing an Italian version with notes for the bassoon paralleling the violin part at the end of the Concerto. In contrast, the simple and best solution, is just to play the notes that Mozart wrote for the bassoon here. These notes provide a suitable conclusion to the Concerto.

19. This then leaves us with considering the performance of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto with a piano reduction of the orchestral parts. What is the best way to perform this? As much as I would like to see all of Mozart’s notes performed, the staging of bassoon with piano accompaniment is so artificial already that performing the tutti passages on the bassoon is just too jarring for our contemporary audiences. I now instruct my students to leave the tutti sections out when performing with piano accompaniment only, particularly when playing in competitions. I don’t wish them to be penalized and misjudged.

20. So, I will conclude here with the questions I gave at the beginning of this video. Given the information I have presented, when you perform a composition, will you play all of the notes written by the composer? Will you pick and choose which notes to play or which to ignore?

21. What if everyone else left out notes the composer wrote, will you be brave enough to play the notes given by the composer?

22. I hope that I have made a convincing case for you to play all the notes that Mozart wrote for your instrument. Bye.

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