Australian composer James Ledger

Outposts (Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra)
2010
19 mins
2.1(= corA).2(II=bcl).1(=cbsn)-2.2.2.0-timp.perc.(2): I=vib/1 timp/pedBD/chinese cym/car spring; II=glspl/mar/2bongos/pedBD(shared with perc.1)/3susp.cym/rain stick/wind gong-hrp-pft-bsn solo-strings

Premiere: 18,19 March 2011
Sydney Opera House
Matthew Wilkie, bassoon
Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Hans Graf, conductor

When thinking about this work, I was drawn to the word outpost, as it has a meaning of being removed from the main populace and a sense of isolation about it. Not unlike a soloist in an orchestra

Outposts is made up of four contiguous movements. Near the end of each movement occur stark interruptions that are scored for bassoon soloist, vibraphone, harp and piano. Each of these ‘outposts’ is desolate, emulating the isolation of the real thing. Essentially, they are cadenzas for the bassoon soloist. Sometimes the bassoon reflects the solitary nature of the term and sometimes crying out against it.

I had the opportunity to work closely with Matthew Wilkie on this concerto and in doing so, was reminded of the diverse and compelling range of expression of the bassoon. The high register in particular captured my imagination as it has an element to it that reminds me of the human voice – but one full of despair. Needless to say, most of the outposts capitilise on this feature.

A brief description of each of the movements is as follows: The first is an ecstatically charged piece characterised by a repeating small rhythmic fragment that drives the music forward. The second movement is full of strange angles and turns in the melodic material. The third is an experiment in shifting timbral qualities of the bassoon. The final movement is a long, soaring line in the bassoon over an inverted bass line in the contrabassoon. Against this are cascades of rising and falling pizzicato strings.




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