Solo List – Bassoon

Selected by Jennifer Auerbach, Dallas, TX

Es ist Vollbracht by Bach

This piece is a slow, lyrical piece that is accessible in its tempo and lack of tenor clef. Technically less demanding than some of the other class 1 solos, the challenge of this piece is the double counting (8th note gets the beat) and in some of the syncopated rhythms. The range does goes up to a high B and the piece also contains high A-sharps. It is a good opportunity to expand the range and learn these higher notes. Most bassoons have the key work necessary to play these notes with no problem. The piece is 2 pages long and easy to memorize. The piano part is not hard and it is pretty straight forward to put together with the bassoon part.

Adagio by Beethoven

This piece is a slow, lyrical piece that is accessible in its range and lack of tenor clef. Technically less demanding than some of the other class 1 solos, the challenge of this piece is the double counting (8th note gets the beat) and in some of the syncopated rhythms. The range only goes up to a high G (a note most middle school bassoon students do learn). 2 pages long, easy to memorize. The piano part is quite easy. An excellent first class 1 solo.

Premier Solo by Bourdeau

This piece is on the more challenging side of my selections for this list. It’s 3 pages long, through-composed and has technical passages that need to be practiced for clean note connections. The range goes up to high B-flat at times, but there is no tenor clef, so if the student has not yet mastered tenor clef, this could be a more accesible choice. It features rubato as well as plenty of opportunitues for phrasing and musicality. This is a really fun solo to play because it is so well written and is hands down my students favorite piece to play. The bassoon part is harder than the piano part, which is not too terribly difficult.

Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann by Davis

The Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann is a fun piece to play. For most of the piece there is no tenor clef and a very reasonable range – up to high F. However in the cadenza section, there is a brief moment of tenor clef and range up to high C. This is not too bad though because it just goes up chromatically to high C – it’s a good opportunity to learn these higher fingerings in a straightforward section of music. Most of this solo contains very straightforward counting. There is a lyrical section with triplets that come in after a tie, but with some coaching from an informed teacher this should not be a problem. The low section on the bottom of the first page will need some going over as it is one of the more challenging parts of the piece technically. If the player takes the cadenza section at a reasonable tempo, it is very attainable. Putting this together with the piano accompaniment is not difficult at all – the piano part is straightforward and not hard.

Six Sonatas for Bassoon by Galliard
(2 vols) (play three mvts from one Sonata)

There are 6 Galliard sonatas that are available to be played as a class 1 bassoon solo. The player is advised to select 3 movements to be performed to make it a class 1. All of the sonatas are great pieces, but there are some particularly nice sonatas and movements that I often program for students. The piano accompaniments are all very accessible. Here are some options: Sonata no. 1 contains 5 movements that are all half a page long each. All of the movements are very accessible and I frequently have middle school students play any of these movements. This is one of my students’ favorite sonatas and all the movements are fun and enjoyable to play. There is no tenor clef and the range only goes up to high G. There is some double counting in some of the movements (8th note gets the beat) and some potentially new rhythms to be worked out, but they are repetitive in this regard, so once the rhythm is learned, it is played frequently in the given movement. Sonata no. 3 featuers the famous Allegro movement 2 that is a favorite among many bass clef instrumentalists. If performing this sonata, I recommend movements 2, 3, and 4 becuase movement 2 is a fun challenge, movement 3 is quite short (1 line long) and in recitative style, so it’s very easy to put together, and movement 4 is also fun to play. The famous movement 2 is moderately challenging – it does feature tenor clef as well as several instances of syncopated rhythm that needs to be focussed on to be performed correctly. There are also Baroque trills that should be discussed and worked on. The other sonatas are also very nice (Sonata 5 has some nice movements) but Sonatas 1 and 3 with the movements I suggest are my favorites to program with students.

Six Sonatas for Bassoon Vol. I and II by Merci
(play all of one Sonata)

All of the Merci sonatas are nice pieces, but the one I like to program the most for my younger students wishing to perform a class 1 solo is Sonata no. 4. This piece has 3 movements that are pretty accessible for both the bassoonist and the pianist and is one of my go-to pieces for young players (highly recommended!). The Allemanda can be dressed up or down with the implementation (or not) of the ornaments and by taking slower tempos. I have often had middle school students successfully perform this piece. There are a few places where counting needs to be addressed, but for the most part the counting is pretty straight forward. Range up to high G, which is accessibe and no tenor clef. Second movement is slower and is in 3/2 time, so if they are unfamiliar with this time siganture, that is an opportunity to learn it. Even so, the quarter note gets the beat, so it’s not too hard for students to learn. Range up to high G and no tenor clef. The last movement is in 3/8, so again if this is a time signature that is new to the student, it’s an opportunity to learn something new without it being too hard to understand. Some fast notes/technique but it’s scaler and not very hard to execute. Range up to high G and no tenor clef. This piece is a great first class 1 solo to choose.

Concerto in Bb K. 191 by Mozart
(play mvt 2 or 3) (no cadenzas) NMR:(play all)

The Mozart bassoon concerto is a challenging work. The first movement is the most challenging and the second and third movements are more accessible. For the memory list, performing the second or third movements is a fine choice. For the no memory list, performing the whole concerto is long, tiring and means that the first movement must be played. While not impossible, it creates other challenges and if possible, I recommend considering other options for high school students. The second movement is slow and lyrical. There is no tenor clef and the range goes up to high G, which is very accessible. The challenges for the second movement include some tricky counting as well as double counting (count the 4/4 in subdivided eighth notes). There are also some ornaments that require explanation from an informed instructor. The second movement is 1 page long. The third movement is also accessible and is 3 pages long. The tempo can be tailored to the performer. There is no tenor clef and the range goes up to a high G, which is accessible for most younger players. There are a few rhythms that need attention, but they are repetitive and fairly straight forward. The piano accompaniment for this piece is moderately difficult becuase it is an orchestral reduction. The first movement is the hardest and is also in the key of B-flat, which is a less friendly key for piano. The third movement is also in B-flat but it features fewer difficult runs for the piano. The second movement is in F and it not very hard for the piano.

Vocalise Op. 34 No. 14 by Rachmaninoff

This is another great starter solo for younger players. It does feature writing in the tenor clef, which is a challeng, however it does not change back and forth from bass clef to tenor clef – it stays in tenor clef the whole time. This is a great way for students to get more confident with reading music in tenor clef. For the most part the range is accessible, going up to high G, however in the last line it does go up to high C, which is pretty high. Most bassoons will have the keys to play this note, but for younger players they will need to learn to get comfortable with A, B-flat and C for that last line. The counting can be done either with quarter notes getting the beat or with eighth notes getting the beat. If the latter, working on double counting presents a (good) challenge for the performer. This piece is slow and lyrical and not hard to put together with the piano accompaniment. The accompaniment itself is straight forward and not too difficult.

Sonate Op. 168 by Saint-Saens
(play mvt 2 or 3) NMR:(play mvt 2 and 3)

This is a beautiful work for bassoon that is enjoyable to work on. The second movement is very difficult, so I recommend passing that movement up and selecting the third movement. The diffuclty of the second movement lies in the mobile, bouncy melody that requires fast finger technique and quick air/embouchure/voicing changes, which can be challenging for younger players. The third movement is long, but beautiful. The rhythms are repetitive and not very difficult (there are ties, but this can be explained and worked on). Becuase of the length endurance can be an issue for younger players as well. The last page of the third movement is fast and has some pretty challenging runs that will require some woodshedding to perform smoothly and cleanly. The piano accompaniment is moderately difficult and putting it together with the piano is also moderately difficult (but not impossible with a good pianist). This is another solo that’s worth the work for a younger player who is an above average player. The no memory list says to play both movements 2 and 3 and I usually recommend to consider other options because of the length of the two movements and the difficulty of movement 2.

Concerto Op. 75 by von Weber
(play one mvt) NMR:(play all)

The Weber Concerto for Bassoon is a great and well known work. The no memory list requires performing all 3 movements and I recommend considering other options due to the length (17 minutes) and the difficulty of the first movement. In selecting one of the movements to perform from memory, I recommend the second or third movements. The first movement alone is 10 minutes long, is a test of endurance and also is very technically demanding. Advanced players may be fine with the first movement, but I would recommend other options for younger players (don’t select the first movement). The second movement is one page long, it’s lyrical and the counting is fairly straight forward. It is in a slow 3/8 time, so there are 32nd notes to contend with, but once that is explained, performing it is not very difficult. The range goes up to high B-flat and that is pretty challenging, but it is a good opportunity to expand range if that fingering is not yet known. There are some ornaments that will need explanation from an informed teacher. There is also tenor clef in the second movement. The third movement is even more technically challenging (fast movement) and is 3 pages long. It has tenor clef and goes up to high B-flat as well. The time signature and rhythm aren’t too hard, but the technique is what would make this movement suitable only if the younger player is above average in ability. The piano accompaniment is not too hard and putting either of the movements together with bassoon and piano is not too hard.

Romance in Eb Major Op. 3 by Weissenborn

The Weissenborn Romance is a beautiful work for the bassoon. This piece is lyrical and enjoyable to play. The range does go up to a high C, but in the context, it is not very hard to play these high fingerings. There is some tenor clef, but once it goes to tenor clef, it stays there for an extended time so that the player is not switching back and forth between the clefs frequently. This piece is a good opportunity to expand horizons on high note fingerings and tenor clef reading in a slower and technically less demanding setting. The counting is pretty straight forward in this piece – there may be a few ties and ornaments that need explanation by an informed instructor, but for the most part the rhythms are not too complicated. The piano accompaniment is not hard and putting it together with the piano is not challenging.

Sonata in f minor by Telemann
(mvts 1 & 2 or 3 & 4)

The Telemann Sonata is one of the most commonly selected solos for bassoon (and other bass clef instruments). It is definitely a good go-to piece for younger players. There are challenges to the piece, but also a lot of accessibility. The performer is advised to select movements 1 and 2 or movements 3 and 4. Either set of movements is fine – they’re all challenging in their own ways. Movement 1 is one page long, it is lyrical and does not feature tenor clef or high range. There are a few rhythms that need to be gone over with the teacher, including some ties, but otherwise it is rhythmically fairly straight forward. The second movement is 2 full pages long (plus a DC that repeats one whole page), so endurance can be an issue. There are some challenging issues of technique in this movement, but a moderate tempo can be taken to help with that. The range only goes up to a high G and is quite accessible. There are some Baroque ornaments that require the explanation of an informed instructor (or they can be omitted). There is no tenor clef in the first or second movements. The third movement is lyrical and only half a page long. The range only goes up to high G and there is no tenor clef. The challenge of this movement is in the rhythms that feature a lot of ties, so this will need to be gone over with an instrutor. The fourth movement is fast and technical. The range only goes up to high F and there is no tenor clef in this movement. The key signature is f minor and the time signature is 3/8, so becoming comfortable with both of these aspects of the movement is moderately challenging. Selecting a reasonable tempo can make this movement approachable by younger players. The piano part is not hard. It is a realized figured bass part and it is fairly straight forward to play and put together with the bassoon. The Telemann Bassoon Sonata is a great choice for younger players who wish to perform a class 1 solo.