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Orchestral Tales: the bassoon

Paolo Pietropaolo

If you take the most famous solos for a given instrument of the orchestra, you’ll find a vivid character emerges — a character with a magical story to tell. That’s the idea behind Orchestral Tales, Season 3 of the award-winning Signature Series.

To hear the bassoon’s tale, click on the Soundcloud play button below. Scroll down for a complete list of the featured compositions.

Read more about the bassoon’s characteristics below.


Orchestral section:


Patron instrument of:

Blue-collar workers. Comedians. The guy/girl next door.

Bassoon-like fictional characters:

- Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings.
- Chandler Bing from Friends.

1 bassoon clip to watch before you die:

Who says the bassoon can't be jazzy? This video shows just how incredibly versatile the bassoon can be:

3 immortal bassoon moments in pop culture:

1. The final scene of the 1983 film Never Cry Wolf, based on the memoir by Farley Mowat. This bassoon calls forth wolves. As bassoons were always meant to.

2. The bassoon solo in Smokey Robinson’s “The Tears of a Clown.”

3. The space-age bassoon in the Cantina Band scene from the original Star Wars movie.

1 reason to play the bassoon:

You'll have the strongest and most flexible thumbs known to humankind (the bassoon has more thumb keys than finger keys).

Famous bassoonists you should know about:

- composer Edward Elgar.
- conductor Vernon Elliott.
- conductor Marc Minkowski.
- parodist Peter Schickele, also known as P.D.Q. Bach.
- actor Rainn Wilson.
- Lindsay Cooper from the rock band Henry Cow.
- poet Ezra Pound.
- jazz saxman Illinois Jacquet.

Pieces heard in The Bassoon’s Tale (in order of first appearance):

- Mussorgsky/Ravel: “The Old Castle” from Pictures at an Exhibition.
- Grieg: “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt.
- Bartók: “Presentation of the Couples” from Concerto for Orchestra.
- Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf.
- Berlioz: “March to the Scaffold” from Symphonie Fantastique.
- Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring.
- Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
- John Powell: “Goa” from The Bourne Supremacy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
- Sibelius: Symphony No. 2, second movement.
- Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, second movement.
- Mark Isham: music from the movie Never Cry Wolf.
- Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, first movement.
- Donizetti: “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’elisir d’amore.
- Stravinsky: “Berceuse” from The Firebird.

Meet all of the instruments.