Bassoon Concerto (2023)

Asher Fisch and WASO were at their finest in Symphonic Titans, with killer accuracy tempering volcanic energy.

But between these two knowns was an unknown: the world premiere of Australian composer Andrew Schultz’s Bassoon Concerto, commissioned for WASO by Geoff Stern and written in collaboration with WASO’s Principal Bassoon and the soloist for this performance, Jane Kircher-Lindner.

Those of us who enjoy Baroque wind concerti will not find the idea of a bassoon concerto at all unusual. But for those more accustomed to orchestral repertoire of the meat-and-potatoes variety, it’s perhaps more of a novelty – Mozart’s famous Bassoon Concerto notwithstanding. As Schultz himself writes in the program note:

“The bassoon has a unique and expressive voice and is probably somewhat unusual as a solo instrument in a concerto.”

Schultz and Kircher-Lindner have taken this ugly duckling of the orchestra and made of it a beautiful swan, exploring its “unique and expressive voice” against a full orchestral backdrop in which winds, strings, brass and percussion variously come to the fore.

The first movement – Misterioso – gave Kircher-Lindner ample opportunity to display her artistry and virtuosity as the solo part moved between lyricism and “bravura chromatic clowning”. The following spaciously-scored Exquisite Aeon allows for a more meditative consideration of soloist and orchestra, and it is here that Kircher-Lindner’s ability to colour a phrase became more pronounced.

Sable Island Gallop is inspired by a Canadian folksong “that celebrates Sable Island’s wild ‘crazy horses’.” Wild also describes this third movement, and indeed this performance, brimming over with syncopated rhythms, percussive effects and an ecstatically buoyant solo part which Kircher-Lindner despatched with consummate fluency and dynamism. The ensuing rapturous applause was more than deserved. Schultz’s Bassoon Concerto is an attractive and original work that deserves to become a part of the standard repertoire.

[“Symphonic Titans,” Will Yeoman, Limelight Magazine, 3 June 2023.]

WASO principal Jane Kircher-Lindner cut a striking figure in the premiere of Andrew Schultz’s bassoon concerto, artist and instrument emerging from the heart of the orchestra in a rare lead role. 

Each was elegantly eloquent in a tuneful first reading, a lyrical solo introduction summoning call and response from muted trumpet over the “Misterioso” soundscape of the opening, with harp and flute highlights and oboe echoes.

Woodwind and brass formed tributaries to the main event, with bassoon ambling through pensively as glittering colours erupted all around; Kircher-Linder progressing like a Disney princess in an enchanted forest. 

Sudden energy inspired a flurry of notes from bassoon, rhythmic and expressive with a cinematic sweep, before plunging into a probing, teasing cadenza, then rejoining the ensemble in renewed conversation with muted trumpets (Fletcher Cox and Peter Miller) and tuba (Jason Catchpowle).

The second stanza, Exquisite Aeon, summoned a meditative solo over strings, percussion and woodwind, weaving a gentle magic as trumpets danced attendance from the wings of the stage. Kircher-Lindner seemed to draw in and combine melodic lines to infill the harmonics of her own tone in a pleasing, organic mix. 

Percussion set up tribal rhythms for the finale, Sable Island Gallop; bassoon writhing sinuously amid the drama as horns, trumpets, low brass and woodwind rent the air with furtive flourishes, each outburst adding to the energy of the soloist. 

Schultz loaded a smorgasbord of genres into this robust romp, with jazz and Hollywood ever present, powering through to a firecracker climax and a shower of hometown cheers.

[“WASO plays Symphonic Titans,” David Cusworth, The West Australian, 3 June 2023.]

I’ve just been listening to your concerto… It’s so characterful and witty and almost ‘visual’, by which I mean that it comes off the page and evokes something beyond the notes. But even listening to it with analytical ears, there is so much – the atmospheric opening with its beautiful dovetailing of sounds (e.g. suddenly a trumpet tone emerges). And then how it surreptitiously speeds up, first gathering speed around 13’15” (in the concert broadcast), then c.14’50”, snarly trumpet involved. Nice re-entry from the cadenza by the way, and I love the thwacking of the lower strings, movt 3. I know you thought a lot about the orchestration and I think a major achievement is you’ve managed to create a powerful orchestra without overpowering the bassoon. In fact, the bassoon commands the stage, it’s got something to say, actually, it’s a lot: “this is me talking to you, other instruments”. It’s personality. You and Jane Kircher-Lindner have created a really enjoyable piece.

[‘Personal communication,’ Gordon Kalton Williams, author and music journalist, July 2023.]

To read more about the work and its background, click here.