SAINT-SAËNS Camille, Bassoon Sonata

In spite of embracing the latest technology with his pioneering film score, Saint-Saëns never came to terms with more progressive musical trends as he grew older. He could find ‘no style, logic or common sense’ in Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and was appalled by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (‘If that’s music, I’m a baboon’, he declared). Increasingly resistant to modernism, and viewed as something of a musical dinosaur, he turned instead to strict classical forms and traditional harmony, but always with beautifully-crafted results. In the last year of his life, Saint-Saëns wrote three sonatas scored for what he described to a friend as ‘rarely considered instruments’: oboe, clarinet and bassoon – and he had plans to write others for flute and cor anglais. The Bassoon Sonata, Op. 168, was the last of the three to be written, completed in June 1921 and dedicated to Léon Letellier, first bassoon of the Paris Opéra and the Société des concerts. Its three movements are a fluid and lyrical Allegro moderato, a delectable (and technically challenging) scherzo marked Allegro scherzando, and a final movement which begins with an expansive Molto adagio before a brief energetic section which brings the work to an energetic close. 

 

© Nigel Simeone 

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