I'm passionate about rearranging great pieces of music whose only flaw is that they weren't written for the bassoon! The repertoire of the bassoon is much more limited than that of most of our colleagues, especially when searching for pieces by the greatest composers. One of the most rewarding aspect of arranging for me personally, is the opportunity to work with my wife Kathleen to expand the library of works that we can perform together, or as part of our reed quintet, Æther.
Some arrangements are very straightforward, for instance, my recording of Beethoven's Sonata in A for cello and piano. In this case we can just read the cello part and make a few alterations to make it more idiomatic (or possible) for our instrument. Other arrangements, such as the ones I'm listing here are more involved.
Me with Kathleen and Owensboro Symphony Principal Clarinetist, Kirsten Ahnell after a "Brown Bag Lunch" Community outreach concert.
This first piece is an arrangement that Kathleen and I made of Clara Schumann's Trio Op. 17 in G minor. The original piece is a typical piano trio: violin, cello, and piano; we've substituted the strings for oboe and bassoon and made some alterations to make the music suit our instruments.
Completed and premiered in March of 2019 at the North American Saxophone Alliance conference, our arrangement of Camille Saint-Saens' Danse Bacchanale from his opera Samson et Dalila for reed quintet is a fast-paced blitz that is great fun for every instrument in the group. Our premier recording can be heard on Æther's website and a perusal score is included here as well.
For new types of ensembles, arranging pieces by the great masters is one way to build up a repertoire! Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C# minor from book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier suits the reed quintet sound very well. Bach's music is at its heart, lyrical and full of different musical lines weaving back and forth. This characteristic makes it fiendishly difficult for pianists, as well as making it well-suited for an ensemble of wind instruments. The five-voice fugue from this work is a masterpiece frequently studied in counterpoint classes.
Fauré's Pavane is a gorgeous orchestral work. This arrangement for double reed ensemble offers a great, lyrical piece to add to any program. All instruments get melodic material, with various pairings throughout the piece. This arrangement calls for two oboes, an English horn, two bassoons, and a contrabassoon.