Bassoon Sonata

for bassoon and piano

Ian Stephens

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for bassoon and piano

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Composer Ian Stephens
Year of Composition 2014
Duration ca.15'
Student Difficulty int-adv
Categories (all composers) , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-is1bs1


The Bassoon Sonata was commissioned by Miranda Dodd for her husband Matthew – an excellent bassoonist – to celebrate his 50th birthday in December 2014.

The Sonata is in four movements. The first movement, Ode, grows from a melodic line in a setting of Keats’ Ode to Autumn that I made in 1994, specifically the line ‘Where are the songs of spring? Ah, where are they?’, which forms the bassoon’s opening phrase. The more sprightly central section, marked Vivo, makes reference to Matthew’s name (Matthew = 7 letters, Dodd = 4 letters) in its alternation of bars of 7/4 and 4/4.

Material in each subsequent movement is generated in one way or another from the Sonata’s opening melody. In the second movement, Wild Dance, the unrestrained vigour of the outer sections finds contrast in a more thoughtful and consonant central dance, and a Meno mosso section that recalls the opening of the first movement.

The third movement, Song without Words, grows from four pairs of rocking chords which form the accompaniment to the songlike melody line. The iterations of the song alternate with passages of dense dark chords.

The finale, Scat, pays homage to the kings of bebop. Its driving, onrushing, syncopated energy continues unabated until the bassoon’s final flourish.

The Sonata takes about 15 minutes to perform. The premiere was given by Matthew Dodd and Sam Laughton on 4 August 2018 at Pigotts Music Camp.