In this particular case, I wrote for Harmonia’s principal bassoonist, Jeff Eldridge, aka Listener Jeff, who also happens to be about the most knowledgeable person I’ve ever met when it comes to orchestral literature. Since he (and all of us) were robbed of the chance to play in orchestra together, I thought I’d give him something to play that was based on great orchestral works but designed to entertain one person solo.
So I took a line for a walk. That’s to say, I wrote a multi-movement suite in several movements where each movement starts with the opening bars of a famous orchestral bassoon solo, but then I took the melody in a different direction.
I gave the movements titles that evoke something about their original source: the dudka is the ancient Russian pipe instrument that Stravinsky evoked with the opening of The Rite of Spring. “Budapest” takes its name from the fact that Bartok’s Dance Suite was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the merger of Buda and Pest. “Dawn” refers to Ravel’s “Morning Song of the Jester.” “Broomsticks” should be obvious. “Dervishes” refers to the whirling dervishes of the Ottoman Empire; this is the group (supposedly) to which the Kalendar-Prince belonged. And finally, “Hobgobblins” refers to the troll in Peer Gynt, but since that’s the finale, I went crazy with the references.
This was a tremendously fun exercise and I’ve been meaning to do it for other instruments. But of course, I haven’t, so if any other composer wants to steal the idea, I suppose they should!