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Woodwind instrument

( double reed)
Playing range
Range bassoon.png
Related instruments
  • Tenoroon
  • Contrabassoon (double bassoon)
  • Dulcian
  • Oboe

The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers and occasionally even higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 1800s, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band, and chamber music literature. The instrument is known for its distinctive tone colour, wide range, variety of character, and agility. Its warm, dark, reedy timbre has often been compared to that of a male baritone voice. Due to the complicated fingering and the problem of reeds, the bassoon is an especially difficult instrument to learn; schoolchildren typically take up the bassoon only after starting on another woodwind instrument, such as the flute, clarinet, or saxophone.


Early history

Dulcians and racketts, from the Syntagma musicum by Michael Praetorius.

The dulcian is generally considered to be the forerunner of the modern bassoon, as it shares many characteristics with the latter, including a double reed fitted to a metal crook, obliquely drilled tone holes, and a conical bore that doubles back upon itself. The origins of the dulcian are obscure, but by the mid 16th century it was available in as many as eight different sizes, from soprano to great bass. A full consort of dulcians was a rarity; its primary function seems to have been to provide the bass in the typical wind band of the time, either loud ( shawms) or soft (recorders), indicating a remarkable ability to vary dynamics to suit the need. Otherwise, dulcian technique was rather primitive, with eight fingerholes and generally one key, indicating that it could play in only a limited number of key signatures.

About this time, the dulcian began to be known as fagotto in Italy. However, the usual etymology that equates fagotto with " bundle of sticks" is somewhat misleading, as the latter term did not come into general use until somewhat later. A further discrepancy lies in the fact that the dulcian was usually carved out of a single block of wood, which is to say that it was a single "stick", and not a bundle.

It is tempting to say that the dulcian merged imperceptibly into the bassoon, but in fact there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that the baroque bassoon was a newly-invented instrument, with only a superficial resemblance to the old dulcian. Note that the dulcian was never entirely supplanted--it continued to be used well into the 18th century by Johann Sebastian Bach and others. The man most likely responsible for the development of the true bassoon was Martin Hotteterre (d.1712), who may also have been the inventor of the three-piece flûte traversière and the hautbois. Sometime in the 1650s, Hotteterre is believed to have conceived the bassoon in four sections (bell, bass joint, boot and wing joint), an arrangement which allowed far greater accuracy in machining the bore compared with the old dulcian. He also extended the compass downward to B♭ with the addition of two keys An alternate view holds that Hotteterre was but one of several craftsmen responsible for the development of the early bassoon; these may have included additional members of the Hotteterre family, as well as other French makers active around the same time. No original French bassoon from this period survives, but if it did, it would most likely resemble the earliest extant bassoons of Johann Christoph Denner and Richard Haka from the 1680s. Sometime around 1700, a fourth key ( G♯) was added, and it was for this type of instrument that composers such as Antonio Vivaldi, Bach, and Georg Philipp Telemann wrote their demanding music. A fifth key, for the low E♭, was added during the first half of the 18th century. Notable makers of the 4-key and 5-key baroque bassoon include J.H. Eichentopf (c.1678-1769), J. Poerschmann (1680-1757), Thomas Stanesby, Jr. (1668-1734), G.H. Scherer (1703-1778), and Prudent Thieriot (1732-1786).

Modern history

Increasing demands on the capabilities of instruments and players in the 1800s — particularly concert halls requiring louder tones and the rise of virtuoso composer-performers — spurred on the further refinement of the bassoon. Increased sophistication both in manufacturing techniques and acoustical knowledge made possible great improvements in the playability of the instrument.

The modern bassoon exists in two distinct primary forms, the Buffet system and the Heckel system. The Buffet system is played primarily in France but also in Belgium and parts of Latin America, while the Heckel system is played in the majority of the world.

Heckel (German) system

Heckel system bassoon from 1870

The design of the modern bassoon owes a great deal to the performer, teacher, and composer Carl Almenräder, who, assisted by the German acoustic researcher Gottfried Weber developed the 17-key bassoon whose range spanned four octaves. Almenräder's improvements to the bassoon began with an 1823 treatise in which he described ways of improving intonation, response, and technical ease of playing by means of augmenting and rearranging the keywork; subsequent articles further developed his ideas. Working at the Schott factory gave him the means to construct and test instruments according to these new designs, the results of which were published in Caecilia, Schott's house journal; Almenräder continued publishing and building instruments until his death in 1846, and Ludwig van Beethoven himself requested one of the newly-made instruments after hearing of the papers. Almenräder left Schott to start his own factory along with partner Johann Adam Heckel in 1831.

Heckel and two generations of descendants continued to refine the bassoon, and it is their instrument that has become the standard for other instrument makers to follow. Because of their superior singing tone quality (an improvement upon one of the main drawbacks of the Almenräder instruments), the Heckel instruments competed for prominence with the reformed Wiener system, a Boehm-style bassoon, and a completely-keyed instrument devised by Charles-Joseph Sax, father of Adolphe Sax. One latecomer attempt, from 1893, with a logical reformed fingering system was implemented by F.W. Kruspe, but failed to catch on. Other attempts at improving the instrument included a 24-keyed model and a single-reeded mouthpiece, but both were found to have adverse effects on the bassoon's distinctive tone and were abandoned.

Coming into the 20th century the Heckel-style German model of bassoon dominated the field; Heckel himself had made over 1,100 instruments by the turn of the century (serial numbers begin at 3,000), and the English makers' instruments were no longer desirable for the changing pitch requirements of the symphony orchestra, remaining primarily in military band use.

Except for a brief 1940s wartime conversion to ball bearing manufacture, the Heckel concern has produced instruments continuously to the present day. Heckel bassoons are considered by many the best, although a range of Heckel-style instruments is available from several other manufacturers, all with slightly different playing characteristics. Companies that manufacture Heckel-system bassoons include: Wilhelm Heckel, Yamaha, Fox Products, W. Schreiber & Söhne, Püchner, The Selmer Company, Linton, Moosmann Kohlert, Moennig/Adler, B.H. Bell and Guntram Wolf. In addition, several factories in the People's Republic of China are producing inexpensive instruments under such labels as Laval, Haydn and Lark, and these have been available in the West for some time now. However, they are generally of marginal quality and are usually avoided by serious players.

Because its mechanism is the most primitive of all the woodwinds, there have been occasional attempts at "reinventing" the bassoon. In the 1960s the Englishman Giles Brindley began development of what he called the "logical" bassoon, which aimed to improve intonation and evenness of tone through use of an electrically activated mechanism, making possible key combinations that were too complex for the human hand to manage. However, Brindley's "logical bassoon" was never marketed.

Buffet (French) system

The Buffet system bassoon achieved its basic acoustical properties somewhat earlier than the Heckel; thereafter it continued to develop in a more conservative manner. While the early history of the Heckel bassoon included a complete overhaul of the instrument in both acoustics and keywork, the development of the Buffet system consisted primarily of incremental improvements to the keywork. This minimalist approach deprived the Buffet of the improved consistency, and thus the ease of operation and increased power found in the Heckel bassoons, but the Buffet is considered by some to have a more vocal and expressive quality. For example, the conductor John Foulds lamented in 1934 the dominance of the Heckel-style bassoon, considering them to be too homogeneous in sound with the horn.

Compared to the Heckel bassoon, Buffet system bassoons have a narrower bore and somewhat simplified mechanism, requiring different fingerings for many notes. It is not possible to switch from the Heckel to the Buffet, and vice versa, without extensive "retraining". Buffet instruments are known for a reedier sound and greater facility in the upper registers, reaching e''' and f''' with far greater ease and less air pressure. French woodwind tone in general exhibits a certain amount of "edge", with more of a vocal quality than is usual elsewhere, and the Buffet bassoon is no exception. This type of sound can be beneficial in music by French composers, but it also has drawn criticism for being too intrusive. As with all bassoons, the tone varies considerably depending on the individual instrument and performer. In the hands of a lesser player, the Heckel bassoon can sound rather flat and woody, but good players succeed in producing a vibrant, singing tone. Conversely, when poorly played the Buffet can sound buzzy and nasal, but good players succeed in producing a warm, expressive sound different from but in no way inferior to that of the Heckel.

Though the French system was once widely favored in England, Buffet-system instruments are no longer made there, and the last prominent English player of the French system retired in the 1980s. However, with its continued use in some regions and its distinctive tone, the Buffet continues to have a place in modern bassoon playing, particularly in France. Buffet-model bassoons are currently made in Paris by Buffet Crampon and The Selmer Company. Some players, for example Gerald Corey in Canada, have learned to play both types and will alternate between them depending on the repertoire being played.

Usage in ensembles

Earlier ensembles

The bassoon was first used in the orchestra to reinforce the bass line, and to act as the bass of the double reed choir (oboes and taille). Baroque composer Jean-Baptiste Lully and his Les Petits Violons included oboes and bassoons along with the strings in the 16-piece (later 21-piece) ensemble, as one of the first orchestras to include the newly-invented double reeds. Antonio Cesti included a bassoon in his 1668 opera Il Pomo d'oro (The Golden Apple). However, the use of the bassoon in the concert orchestra was sporadic until the late 17th century when double reeds began to make their way into the standard instrumentation, largely due to the spread of the hautbois to countries outside of France. Increasing use of the bassoon as a basso continuo instrument meant that it began to be included in opera orchestras, first in France and later in Italy, Germany and England. Meanwhile, composers such as Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Michel Corrette, Johann Ernst Galliard, Jan Dismas Zelenka, Johann Friedrich Fasch and Telemann wrote demanding solo and ensemble music for the instrument. Antonio Vivaldi brought the bassoon to prominence by featuring it in 37 concerti for the instrument.

By mid-century, the bassoon's function in the orchestra was still mostly limited to that of a continuo instrument--since scores often made no specific mention of the bassoon, its use was implied, particularly if there were parts for oboes or other winds. Beginning in the early Rococo era, composers such as Joseph Haydn, Johann Christian Bach, Giovanni Battista Sammartini and Johann Stamitz included parts that exploited the bassoon for its unique colour, rather than for its perfunctory ability to double the bass line. Orchestral works with fully-independent parts for the bassoon would not become commonplace until the Classical era. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's " Jupiter" symphony is a prime example, with its famous bassoon solos in the first movement. The bassoons were generally paired, as in current practice, though the famed Mannheim Orchestra boasted four.

Another important use of the bassoon during the Classical era was in the Harmonie, a chamber ensemble consisting of pairs of oboes, horns and bassoons; later, two clarinets would be added to form an octet. The Harmonie was an ensemble maintained by German and Austrian noblemen for private music-making, and was a cost-effective alternative to a full orchestra. Haydn, Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Krommer all wrote considerable amounts of music for the Harmonie.

Modern ensembles

The modern symphony orchestra typically calls for two bassoons, often with a third playing the contrabassoon. Some works call for four or more players. The first player is frequently called upon to perform solo passages. The bassoon's distinctive tone suits it for both plaintive, lyrical solos such as Maurice Ravel's Boléro and more comical ones, such as the grandfather's theme in Peter and the Wolf. Its agility suits it for passages such as the famous running line (doubled in the violas and cellos) in the overture to The Marriage of Figaro. In addition to its solo role, the bassoon is an effective bass to a woodwind choir, a bass line along with the cellos and double basses, and harmonic support along with the French horns.

A wind ensemble will usually also include two bassoons and sometimes contra, each with independent parts; other types of concert wind ensembles will often have larger sections, with many players on each of first or second parts; in simpler arrangements there will be only one bassoon part and no contra. The bassoon's role in the wind band is similar to its role in the orchestra, though when scoring is thick it often cannot be heard above the brass instruments also in its range. La Fiesta Mexicana, by H. Owen Reed, features the instrument prominently, as does the transcription of Malcolm Arnold's Four Scottish Dances which has become a staple of the concert band repertoire.

The bassoon is also part of the standard wind quintet instrumentation, along with the flute, oboe, clarinet, and horn; it is also frequently combined in various ways with other woodwinds. Richard Strauss's "Duet-Concertino" pairs it with the clarinet as concertante instruments, with string orchestra in support.

The bassoon quartet has also gained favour in recent times. The bassoon's wide range and variety of tone colors make it ideally suited to grouping in like-instrument ensembles. Peter Schickele's "Last Tango in Bayreuth" (after themes from Tristan and Iseult) is a popular work; Schickele's fictional alter ego P. D. Q. Bach exploits the more humorous aspects with his quartet "Lip My Reeds", which at one point calls for players to perform on the reed alone. It also calls for a low A at the very end of the prelude section in the fourth bassoon part. It is written so that the first bassoon does not play; instead, his or her role is to place an extension in the bell of the fourth bassoon so that the note can be played.


The bassoon is infrequently used as a jazz instrument and rarely seen in a jazz ensemble. It first began appearing in the 1920s, including specific calls for its use in Paul Whiteman's group and a few other session appearances. The next few decades saw the instrument used only sporadically, as symphonic jazz fell out of favour, but the 1960s saw artists such as Yusef Lateef and Chick Corea incorporate bassoon into their recordings; Lateef's diverse and eclectic instrumentation saw the bassoon as a natural addition, while Corea employed the bassoon in combination with flautist Hubert Laws.

More recently, Illinois Jacquet and Frank Tiberi have both doubled on bassoon in addition to their usual saxophone performances. Bassoonist Karen Borca, a performer of free jazz, is one of the few jazz musicians to play only bassoon; Michael Rabinowitz, the Spanish bassoonist Javier Abad, and James Lassen, an American resident in Bergen, Norway, are others. Lindsay Cooper, Paul Hanson, the Brazilian bassoonist Alexandre Silverio, and Daniel Smith are also currently using the bassoon in jazz. French bassoonists Jean-Jacques Decreux and Alexandre Ouzounoff have both recorded jazz, exploiting the flexibility of the Buffet system instrument to good effect.

Popular music

The bassoon is even rarer as a regular member of rock bands. However, several 1960s pop music hits feature the bassoon, including The Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Jennifer Juniper by Donovan, 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon & Garfunkel, and the oompah bassoon underlying The New Vaudeville Band's Winchester Cathedral. From 1968 to 1978, the bassoon was played by Lindsay Cooper in the English avant-garde band Henry Cow, and in the 1970s it was used by the English band Gryphon (played by Brian Gulland).

In the 1990s, Madonna Wayne Gacy provided bassoon for the alternative metal band Marilyn Manson as did Aimee DeFoe, in what is self-described as "grouchily lilting garage bassoon", in the indie-rock band Blogurt from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Icelandic pop band Hjaltalín also contains a bassoon player called Rebekka . The rock band Better Than Ezra took their name from a passage in Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast in which the author comments that listening to an annoyingly talkative person is still “better than Ezra learning how to play the bassoon,” referring to Ezra Pound.

Bassoons also frequently provide background music for advertisements and cartoons. They give a great sense of a light and happy environment. Although, they could also give a much darker and creepier tone. Indeed, the bassoon could be used for a wide variety of tone settings. The bassoon is one of the most unique instruments and is known distinctly for its wide range (which is what allows it to produce such different moods).


Bassoon2 (PSF).jpg

The bassoon is held diagonally in front of the player and cannot easily be supported by the player's hands alone. The most common means of support are 1) a neck-strap or shoulder-harness attached to the top of the boot joint, or 2) a seat strap attached to the base of the boot joint which is laid across the chair seat prior to sitting down. Occasionally a spike similar to those used for the cello or the bass clarinet is attached to the bottom of the boot joint and rests on the floor. It is possible to play while standing up if the player uses a neck strap or similar harness, or if the seat strap is tied to the belt. Sometimes a device called a balance hanger is used when playing in a standing position. This is installed between the instrument and the neck strap, and shifts the centre of gravity to a higher, more favorable position.

The Heckel-system bassoon is played with both hands in a stationary position, the left above the right, with five main finger holes on the front of the instrument (nearest the audience) plus a sixth that is activated by an open-standing key. Five additional keys on the front are controlled by the little fingers of each hand. The back of the instrument (nearest the player) has twelve or more keys to be controlled by the thumbs, the exact number varying depending on model.

To stabilize the right hand, many bassoonists use an adjustable comma-shaped apparatus called a "crutch" which mounts to the boot joint; players use a thumb screw to secure the crutch and vary the distance that it protrudes from the bassoon. Players rest the curve of the right hand where the thumb joins the palm against the crutch. The crutch also keeps the right hand from tiring and enables the player to keep put the finger pads flat on the finger holes and keys.

An aspect of bassoon technique not found on any other woodwind is called flicking. It involves the momentary pressing, or "flicking", of the high A, C and D keys by the left hand thumb at the beginning of certain notes in the middle octave in order to eliminate the "cracking" or brief microphonic that happens without the use of the key. "Flicking" is not universal amongst bassoonists; some American players, principally on the East Coast, use it sparingly, if at all. The rest use it virtually 100% of the time--it has become in essence "part of the fingering".

European players in general are "flickers". Some hold down the appropriate key for the duration of the note, rather than just at the beginning; this is sometimes referred to as "venting".

A "no-flick" octave key system is available as an add-on, invented by Arthur Weisberg. Only a few years old, it has yet to be offered as "standard equipment" by any of the major bassoon manufacturers.

While bassoons are usually critically tuned at the factory, the player nonetheless has a great degree of flexibility of pitch control through the use of breath support and embouchure. Players can also use alternate fingerings to adjust the pitch of many notes.

Extended techniques

Many extended techniques can be performed on the bassoon, such as multiphonics, fluttertonguing, circular breathing, double tonguing, and harmonics.

Also, using certain fingerings, notes may be produced on the instrument that sound lower pitches than the actual range of the instrument. These "impossible notes" tend to sound very gravelly and out of tune, but technically sound below the low B♭. Alternatively, lower notes can be produced by inserting a small paper or rubber tube into the end of the bell, which converts the lower B♭ into a lower note such as an A natural; this does not affect the tuning of other notes in the lower register.

Reeds and reed construction

Modern reeds

Bassoon reeds are usually around 5.5 cm (2.2 in) in length and wrapped in string.

Bassoon reeds, made of Arundo donax cane, are often made by the players themselves, although beginner bassoonists tend to buy their reeds from professional reed makers or use reeds made by their teachers. Reeds begin with a length of tube cane that is split into three or four pieces. The cane is then trimmed and gouged to the desired thickness, leaving the bark attached. After soaking, the gouged cane is cut to the proper shape and milled to the desired thickness, or profile, by removing material from the bark side. This can be done by hand with a file; more frequently it is done with a machine or tool designed for the purpose. After the profiled cane has soaked once again it is folded over in the middle. Prior to soaking, the reed maker will have lightly scored the bark with parallel lines with a knife; this insures that the cane will assume a cylindrical shape during the forming stage. On the bark portion, the reed maker binds on three coils or loops of brass wire to aid in the final forming process. The exact placement of these loops can vary somewhat depending on the reed maker. The bound reed blank is then wrapped with thick cotton or linen thread to protect it, and a conical steel mandrel (which sometimes has been heated in a flame) is quickly inserted in between the blades. Using a special pair of pliers, the reed maker presses down the cane, making it conform to the shape of the mandrel. (The steam generated by the heated mandrel causes the cane to permanently assume the shape of the mandrel.) The upper portion of the cavity thus created is called the "throat", and its shape has an influence on the final playing characteristics of the reed. The lower, mostly cylindrical portion will be reamed out with a special tool, allowing the reed to fit on the bocal.

After the reed has dried, the wires are tightened around the reed, which has shrunk after drying. The lower part is sealed (generally with a nitrocellulose-based cement such as Duco) and then wrapped with string to ensure both that no air leaks out through the bottom of the reed and that the reed maintains its shape. The bulge in the string wrapping is often referred to as the "turban"--it serves as a convenient handle when inserting the reed on the bocal.

To finish the reed, the end of the reed blank, originally at the centre of the unfolded piece of cane, is cut off, creating an opening. The blades above the first wire are now roughly 27–30 mm (1.1–1.2 in) long. In order for the reed to play, a slight bevel must be created at the tip with a knife, although there is also a machine that can perform this function. Other adjustments with the knife may be necessary, depending on the hardness and profile of the cane and the requirements of the player. The reed opening may also need to be adjusted by squeezing either the first or second wire with the pliers. Additional material may be removed from the sides (the "channels") or tip to balance the reed. Additionally, if the "e" in the staff is sagging in pitch, it may be necessary to "clip" the reed by removing 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) from its length.

Playing styles of individual bassoonists vary greatly; because of this, most advanced players will make their own reeds, in the process customizing them to their individual playing requirements. Many companies and individuals do offer reeds for sale, but even with store-bought reeds, the player must know how to make adjustments to suit his particular playing style.

Early reeds

Little is known about the early construction of the bassoon reed, as few examples survive, and much of what is known is only what can be gathered from artistic representations. The earliest known written instructions date from the middle of the 17th century, describing the reed as being held together by wire or resined thread; the earliest actual reeds that survive are more than a century younger, a collection of 21 reeds from the late 18th century Spanish bajon.

Bassoon repertoire


A collection of historical bassoons, from early baroque to modern, including a classical contrabassoon.
  • Johann Friedrich Fasch, several bassoon concerti; the best known is in C major
  • Christoph Graupner, four bassoon concerti
  • Johann Wilhelm Hertel, Bassoon Concerto in a minor
  • Georg Philipp Telemann, Sonata in F minor
  • Antonio Vivaldi, wrote 39 concerti for bassoon, 37 of which exist in their entirety today


  • Johann Christian Bach, Bassoon Concerto in B♭, Bassoon Concerto in E♭ major
  • Franz Danzi, Bassoon Concertos (in G minor, in C, two in F)
  • François Devienne, Twelve Sonatas (six with opus numbers), three Quartets, one Concerto, six Duos Concertants
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Grand Concerto for Bassoon (in F)
  • Jan Antonín Koželuh, Bassoon Concerto in C
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bassoon Concerto in B♭, K191, the only surviving of an original three bassoon concertos by Mozart
  • Carl Stamitz, Bassoon Concerto in F major
  • Johann Baptist Vanhal, Bassoon in C major, Concerto in F major for two bassoons and orchestra


  • Franz Berwald, Konzertstueck
  • Ferdinand David, Concertino for bassoon and orchestra, op. 12
  • Edward Elgar, Romance for bassoon and orchestra, op. 62
  • Robert Fuchs Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major
  • Julius Fučík, Der alte Brummbär ("The Grouchy Old Bear") for bassoon and orchestra, op. 210
  • Reinhold Glière, Humoresque and Impromptu for Bassoon and Piano, op. 35, nos. 8 and 9
  • Camille Saint-Saëns, Sonata for bassoon and piano in G major, op. 168
  • Carl Maria von Weber, Andante e rondo ungarese in C minor, op. 35; Bassoon Concerto in F, op. 75

Twentieth century

  • Sergei Prokofiev, Humoristic Scherzo for four bassoons, op. 12b (1915)
  • Luciano Berio, Sequenza XII for bassoon (1995)
  • Henri Dutilleux, Sarabande et Cortège for bassoon and piano (1942)
  • Alvin Etler, Sonata for bassoon and piano
  • Glenn Gould, Sonata for Bassoon and Piano (1950)
  • Sofia Gubaidulina, Concerto for Bassoon and low strings (1975)
  • Paul Hindemith, Sonata for bassoon and piano (1938), Concerto for trumpet, bassoon and orchestra, Concerto for flute, oboe, clarinette, bassoon, harp and orchestra
  • Gordon Jacob, Concerto for bassoon, strings and percussion, Four Sketches for bassoon, Partita for bassoon
  • André Jolivet, Concerto for bassoon, strings, harp and piano
  • Mary Jane Leach, Feu de Joie for solo bassoon and six taped bassoons (1992)
  • Anne LeBaron, After a Dammit to Hell for bassoon solo (1982)
  • Peter Maxwell Davies, Strathclyde Concerto no.8 for bassoon and orchestra
  • Francisco Mignone, Double Bassoon Sonata, 16 valses for Bassoon
  • Willson Osborne, Rhapsody for bassoon
  • Andrzej Panufnik, Concerto for bassoon and small orchestra (1985)
  • Richard Strauss, Duet Concertino for clarinet and bassoon with strings and harp (1948)
  • Stjepan Šulek, Concerto for bassoon and orchestra
  • Alexandre Tansman, Sonatine for bassoon and piano, Suite for bassoon and piano
  • John Williams, The Five Sacred Trees: Concerto for bassoon and orchestra (1997)
  • Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, Suite-concertino for bassoon and chamber orchestra (1933)

Pieces featuring famous bassoon passages

  • Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra; the second movement features woodwind instruments in pairs, beginning with the bassoons, and the recapitulation of their duet adds a third instrument playing a staccato counter-melody.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 in B♭ major, Symphony 9 in D minor, last movement
  • Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique (In the fourth movement, there are several solo and tutti bassoon-featuring passages. This piece calls for four bassoons.)
  • Georges Bizet: Carmen, Entr'acte to Act II
  • Paul Dukas: L'apprenti sorcier ( The Sorcerer's Apprentice), widely recognized as used in the movie Fantasia, starts with a contrabassoon solo
  • Edvard Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King
  • Carl Orff: Carmina Burana (12th movement [Olim Lacus Colueram] opens with a high bassoon solo; nicknamed "The Swan")
  • Sergei Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf (possibly the most-recognized bassoon theme, the part of the grandfather)
  • Maurice Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole (features a fast, lengthy dual cadenza at the end of the first movement), Boléro (the bassoon has a high descending solo passage near the beginning), Piano Concerto in G Major, Ma Mère l'Oye a contrabassoon solo in the fourth part
  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, second movement
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: several symphonies including #1, 4, 5: 8, & 9,
  • Jean Sibelius: Symphony 5 in Eb major
  • Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (opens with a famously unorthodox bassoon solo), lullaby from The Firebird
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony 4 in F minor, Symphony 5 in E minor, Symphony 6 in B minor
  • Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Maurice Ravel

Notable bassoonists

  • Maurice Allard (1923–2005)
  • Archie Camden (1888–1979)
  • Bernard Garfield (1928–), Philadelphia Orchestra 1957–2000
  • Simon Kovar (1890–1970)
  • Ludwig Milde (1849–1913)
  • Etienne Ozi (1754–1813)
  • Victor Guillermo Ramos Rangel (1911–1986)
  • Sol Schoenbach (1915–1999)
  • Leonard Sharrow (1915–2004), Chicago Symphony Orchestra 1951-1964
  • Sherman Walt (1923-1989), Boston Symphony Orchestra 1953–1989
  • William Waterhouse (1931–2007), Royal Northern College of Music; London Symphony Orchestra; BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Julius Weissenborn (1837-1888)

Still active

  • Roger Birnstingl
  • Karen Borca
  • Lindsay Cooper
  • Bill Douglas
  • Per Hannevold
  • Paul Hanson
  • Judith LeClair
  • Doug Ostgard
  • Helen Peller
  • Michael Rabinowitz
  • Asger Svendsen
  • Kim Walker
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