Famous composers have been, on occasion, famous performers as well. Think of Bach on the organ, or Rachmaninoff on the piano. And if Mozart’s father is to be believed, young Wolfgang could have Europe’s finest violinist – if he had only practiced more.
But how many famous composers can you name who played the bassoon? Well, the British composer Edward Elgar, for one. As a young musician in Worcester, played the bassoon in a wind quintet. While never becoming famous as a bassoonist, Elgar’s love for and understanding of the instrument is evident in all his major orchestral works, and he counted one skilled player among his friends: this was Edwin F. James, the principal bassoonist of the London Symphony in Elgar’s day.
In 1910, while working on his big, extroverted, almost 50-minute violin concerto, Elgar tossed off a smaller, much shorter, and far more introverted work for bassoon and orchestra as a gift for James. Since Elgar was working on both pieces at the same time, if you’re familiar with Elgar’s Violin Concerto, Op. 61, you can’t help but notice a familial resemblance to his 6-minute Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra, Op. 62.
The Romance was first performed by Edwin F. James at a Herefordshire Orchestral Society concert conducted by the Elgar on today’s date in 1911.
Music Played in Today's Program
Elgar (1857-1934)Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra, Op. 62Graham Salvage, bassoon; Halle Orchestra; Mark Elder, cond.Halle Elgar Edition HLL-7505