The bassoon is a two-reed woodwind instrument with a distinct tone that is typically played in the bass or tenor registers. The bassoon’s voice, which has been compared to that of a human baritone singer, lends itself to plaintive, expressive episodes as well as humorous passages. Bassoon concerti from the Baroque and Classical periods have featured in orchestral music, and they are also used in wind ensembles and quintets. The bassoon isn’t commonly heard in popular music and isn’t closely associated with jazz, though some jazz musicians have dedicated their careers to it.
Two bassoons are common in modern orchestras, though some musical works call for more. A contrabassoon, which is similar to the bassoon but larger and plays an octave lower, may also be included in the orchestra. Bassoons are also used in wind ensembles and wind quintets, which may include other instruments such as the flute, oboe, clarinet, and horn. The bassoon quartet is a more recent development in bassoon music, which can take advantage of the bassoon’s wide range and combine it with the instrument’s various tonal moods to create unique musical performances.
The bassoon was already a part of the orchestra during the Baroque period, and Antonio Vivaldi composed a lot of bassoon music. Both as a solo instrument and as part of an ensemble, Georg Philipp Telemann composed works for the bassoon. Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed later bassoon music. The bassoon was also used as a solo instrument in orchestral works; for example, solo passages for the bassoon appear in Mozart’s well-known Jupiter symphony’s first movement. Richard Strauss’ Duet Concertino features a bassoon and clarinet playing with string accompaniment.
In the twentieth century, a wide range of bassoon music was composed, including works in a variety of styles such as Edward Elgar’s Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra, Sergei Prokofiev’s Humoristic Scherzo for Four Bassoons, and Paul Hindemith’s Concerto for Trumpet, Bassoon, and Orchestra. The bassoon has also appeared in well-known solo passages in orchestral works such as Paul Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Edvard Greig’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. In the twenty-first century, English composer Graham Waterhouse created a work for bassoon quartet called Bright Angel, which uses the instrument to depict the raw and powerful attributes of nature.