Of Paradise Lost (2020-21)
for bassoon and orchestra // 28'
for Jack Schiller
commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Live recording from Hamer Hall, July 15 2022
For a score, piano reduction or parts hire, email me
July 14-16, 2022 (premiere season)
Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
Jack Schiller bassoon, Vasily Petrenko conductor
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
May 19, 2023
Melbourne Recital Centre
(1st movement only)
Lyndon Watts, bassoon Richard Davis, conductor
University of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
July 22, 2023
Prince Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
International Double Reed Society Conference closing night,
Lyndon Watts bassoon, Gordon Hunt cond.
Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra
**Bassoon Concerto begins at 32 minutes of this livestream
There's something about the sound of the bassoon that lends itself to a mythological setting. I think it might be a spoken element to the sound that it lends itself so beautifully as a narrator, or a protagonist in the kinds of stories where the natural environment are intrinsic to the feel of a work. This was probably crystallised by famous orchestral examples in Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, but probably also that it's an instrument that seldom takes centre stage; the kind of personality that when it speaks it invites you in.
"Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" is probably the most famous line from John Milton's epic poem of 1667 Paradise Lost, and is the text from which this concerto takes its name. The piece isn't programmatic; it isn't a musical retelling of the poem at all, but more reflects a relationship of the bassoon as an imperfect protaganist/antagonist to both the concept of heaven and hell as presented by the orchestra.
I feel the poem, and this line in particular speaks to the type of ambiguous precipice we currently sit, one of filled with fear and opportunity. 1660s London was a time of enormous social upheaval, and while the language and subject matter in the poem belongs to its time, the ideas feel contemporary. It's a disconcerting type of comfort that comes from knowing what we experience now has all happened before, and its a mood I've tried impart in the whole work. The piece never quite sits.
The concerto casts the role of the bassoon in two ways in two movements; in one as subjected to heaven, in the other at peace in hell.