Burrill Phillips’ Concert Piece. Terry B. Ewell provides performance and practice suggestions. Excerpts from the 1984 performance with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra are also provided. BDP #314, 2reed.net.

[music: Burrill Phillips' Concert Piece, Terry B. Ewell, bassoon, Vilem Sokol, conductor, Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra]

There are some composers who are quite well known to bassoonists but relatively unknown to other musicians. I am thinking of the English composers Galliard and Jacob. Also, consider the great Germanic pedagogues and composers Weissenborn and Milde. They also illustrate this point. Similarly, in the USA, there are composers whose works are well beloved by bassoonists but often unknown by most other musicians. The Osborne Rhapsody for solo bassoon comes to mind. I already have three videos on that work. But now I give you a video on another work that is beloved by bassoonists. This is the Concert Piece by Burrill Phillips. In this video I discuss the Concert Piece, which is a work that presents the vitality of American musical culture in the 1940s and is also quite approachable for young bassoonists.

Before I discuss the work, I need to mention the historic recording of the composition. Sol Schoenbach was the soloist accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. The performance took place April 5-6, 1952 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

The recording was made to support the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Pension fund and each principal player was to choose a work by a USA composer to record. Only Schoenbach and flutist William Kincaid chose to do so; the rest recorded older music by European composers.

Please be aware that the piano arrangement of this work is quite difficult for the accompanist. If you perform the work with a live pianist, be sure find an excellent one! Scott Pool and I have created versions of the work for you to practice with. Here is a screen shot of a page from the Grade 5 collection of works. You can see that I provide MIDI and mp3 files here in versions with string or piano accompaniment.

The work contains hints of 1930s jazz with its rhythmic vitality and accents. Make certain that the accents in the opening bassoon part are well projected. Here is an excerpt from my 1984 performance of the work. Restrictions from the television station do not allow me to present the entire work.

[music: Ewell with Seattle Youth Symphony]

By the way, in addition to the jazz rhythmic references, this composition features several whole tone scales which give the composition its unique flavor.

Keep the staccato notes short. This also provides character to the work.

[music: Ewell with Seattle Youth Symphony]

There is an error in the bassoon solo part that needs to be corrected. Five after rehearsal number 7 should be E3 not F3.

The composition is in ABA form. The A sections of the work, from the beginning to number 8 and from number 10 to the end need to be performed with metrical and rhythmic precision. Practicing with the metronome or accompaniment with a click track will help you to stay with the beat.

The middle section, the B section, however, should feature some rubato. Be sure to also provide plenty of vibrato as well.

[music: Ewell with Seattle Youth Symphony]

The most technically challenging part of the work occurs in the last three lines of the bassoon part after number 14. For the written-out turns starting on Eb4 I recommend these alternate fingerings for F4. Notice that the little finger key  in the left hand is down for all those notesEb4, F4, and D4 in this turn.

[music: Ewell with Seattle Youth Symphony]

The last run needs to be practiced slowly and with multiple rhythms. The “swing rhythm” long-short-long or short-long-short will not provide the necessary speed needed.


Instead, patterns of fours and six are more helpful.


Now, when you practice these be sure to relax your fingers and also drive to the end of them with the air.


Segments of sprints are very useful as well. Sprints are the name I give to quick groupings of notes in which you play quickly, faster than the performance tempo.


Well, I hope that you enjoy this work as much I as do. It certainly is one of the treasures in the bassoon solo literature.


[music: Burrill Phillips Concert Piece, Terry B. Ewell, bassoon, Vilem Sokol, conductor, Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra]