Thomas M. Sleeper

Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra

Bassoon with Orchestra: 2(2nd dbl picc)222-4231-timp+3-harp-strings
bassoon and piano version available
Three movements: 22 minutes
Recorded by the Ruse Philharmonic with Kathryn Sleeper, bassoon

CONCERTO FOR BASSOON AND ORCHESTRA was written for Kathryn Sleeper and premiered in August 1993 in Beijing, PRC with the Philharmonic Orchestra of China. In May 1996 it received its South American premiere with the Orquesta Sinfonica de San Juan of Argentina and in June, 1996, its European premiere with the Ruse State Philharmonic Orchestra. The composer conducted all three performances with Kathryn Sleeper as soloist The work is scored for standard symphony orchestra and is in three movements:

I. Faust et Psyche
II. Eros et Psyche
III. Prometheus et Psyche

Faust et Psyche follows the dramatic outlines of sonata-allegro form, setting the orchestra against and with the bassoon in tutti and chamber passages. Its opening martial theme is taken over by the soloist and transformed into a slower grazioso theme. These materials are developed and transformed after an extended accompanied cadenza. The tempo is gradually regained with a combination of strict counterpoint and aleatoric elements performed poco agitato. A return of original the motivic material leads to a short, intense coda. The movement collapses in a wash of bi-modality before settling on the final C#.

Movement two, Eros et Psyche, is scored for strings, harp and soloist and plays further with bi modality and changing textures. The bassoon solo is decidedly cantabile except for a central section marked agitato. Hidden in the melodic material is a paraphrase of Praetorius' "Lo how a rose ere blooming". The movement ends gently in C# major.

Prometheus et Psyche is a pyrotechnical etude for bassoon and orchestra. Virtuosic trills and chromatic passages make it an exciting contrast to the second. It opens with a burlesque-like parody in the style of the late Russian School and uses two melodic fragments invented by my then three year-old son, Morgan Thomas Sleeper, for its thematic material. This section, marked by repetition with variations, is abruptly interrupted by the exotic timbres of bamboo chimes, bassoon multiphonics and humming, with a complete cessation of pulse. A development using both aleatoric and non-aleatoric elements builds to a chaotic climax before resolving into a return of the opening in a parody of late romantic style. The listener is unexpectedly snapped from this lush world by the return of the lean presto and a coda which ends the entire work with a wild rush to octave C#'s.

download free pdf perusal score to movement III

Prometheus et Psyche

(3.3MB requires Adobe Acrobat reader 5 or later)


Full Score and piano version are available for purchase.


Orchestra parts available for rental.