Carl Maria von Weber’s Concerto for Bassoon, Mvt. 1


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In the key of F major, this first movement is in the classical concerto form and in the time signature 4/4. It begins with an orchestral tutti introduction, in which fragments of the first theme and most of the second theme are stated. The composer’s harmonic language is simplistic, focusing heavily on dominants and tonics. Primarily a composer of operas, Weber was rather theatrical, a trait he used to great effect in his introduction of the soloist by the orchestra. At the end of the introduction the orchestra plays five measures of a cadential six-four while raising a massive crescendo from piano to fortissimo, lands on a root-position dominant seventh chord, then drops out, leaving a solo timpani playing the tonic F at a pianissimo for two measures of staccato quarter notes, creating “theatrical expectancy,” as often used by Weber. The bassoon enters triumphantly with the first full statement of the movement’s first theme. This high level of drama is a compositional trait often associated with Weber. 

Weber’s talent for characterization is well suited to a piece featuring the bassoon. The bassoon is capable of a wide range of characters and emotions, and in his concerto Weber captures them all. While the first theme is cocky and triumphant (aided by the dotted rhythm), the second theme, marked dolce, is calm and reflective. Mood shifts occur throughout the movement, including markings of brillante, dolce, con fuoco, dolce again, and brillante for the dramatic finish. Emotions and qualities evoked in this movement are seriousness, dignity, and power.

Using any technique he can to heighten drama and showcase the virtuosity of the soloist, Weber quickly alternates between notes in very low and very high registers, and right before the flashy arpeggios, scales and trills that lead to the final cadence, the bassoon dramatically ascends to a high D (D5), then the highest note a bassoon could reach at the time. The modern bassoon can play higher, but not without great effort and skill.


This movement, and the whole piece, showcase the bassoon in a variety of ways. Included are the abilities to play high or low, soft or loud, energetic or dolce, etc. It makes the bassoon(ist) a hero, whereas in everyday music, the bassoon is either in the background or a clown.



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