Last weekend the Columbus Symphony performed Mozart Symphony No. 32, the Barber Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes, and Mahler Symphony No. 1 with Alondra de la Parra conducting. The audio stream of the concert can be accessed here.
The Barber Violin Concerto 3rd movement features one of the most challenging 1st bassoon parts in the orchestral literature. The movement is in cut time, with a tempo of 96 to the half note. The passage which causes the most finger-tangling is the one beginning a measure before 9:
The 1st bassoon and 1st flute play the melody in octaves between 11 and 13 above. For some reason, even though this passage is relatively easy compared to the rest of the movement, the tendency is to lag behind. It's best to listen to the snare drum to ensure an accurate tempo.
Of course, Mahler 1 is famous among bassoonists for the 3rd movement funeral march which begins with a string bass solo followed by a bassoon solo:
The simplest melodies can be the most challenging due to the required perfection. To practice the above solo, I played the solo repeatedly with a drone sounding on the tonic (D) so that any intonation issues would be obvious. I used an electronic piano with the sound set on jazz organ. I used duct tape to tape the D key down- the sound was continuous until I removed the tape. This may sound silly, but I have a policy of doing whatever it takes to achieve the results I desire. When practicing the solo this way, I also aimed for smoothness in addition to correct intonation. By the time the first rehearsal with the orchestra occurred, I was comfortable with this solo.
Later in the movement, the bassoon perhaps represents a mourner at the funeral in a long line ascending, in unison with the 3rd horn, up to high B flat. There, the horn drops out and the bassoonist is free to employ vibrato with which to sob through the rest of the solo.
Beginning 4 after 18 as seen below, the bassoon joins the flute in unison for a bit of sorrowful reminiscing.
Then the bassoon gets to show off its nasty side at 19:
The 4th movement of the Mahler features one of those passages which is surprisingly exposed and precarious, especially if the bassoonist is caught off guard. (It's hardly noticeable on recordings.)
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