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Of Paradise Lost (bassoon with orchestra)

by Matthew Laing (2020)

Also known as: Bassoon Concerto

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The Australian Music Centre's catalogue does not include any recordings or sheet music of this work. This entry is for information purposes only.

Materials for this work may be lodged in our collection in the future. Until then, any enquiries should be made directly to the composer/sound artist or their agent.

Work Overview

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 Apprenticeand 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, 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; a first movement as subjected to heaven, a second movement at peace in hell.

Work Details

Year: 2020

Instrumentation: Solo bassoon, orchestra.

Duration: 21 min.

Difficulty: Advanced

Dedication note: For Jack Schiller and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Commission note: Commissioned by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

First performance: by Jack Schiller, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko — 14 Jul 21. Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne

Performances of this work

16 Jul 21: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. Featuring Vasily Petrenko, Jack Schiller, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

15 Jul 21: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. Featuring Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Jack Schiller, Vasily Petrenko.

14 Jul 21: Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. Featuring Jack Schiller, Vasily Petrenko, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

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