Sonata for Bassoon and Violoncello B flat major K.292 (1775). A bit of music history and theory

During January 1775 the eighteen years old Wolfgang Amadeus travelled to the Bavarian capital to supervise the arrangements for his new opera ‘The pretend Garden-Girl’ (La finta giardiniera). At the court chapel, Mozart met excellent musicians, above all two bassoonists who were among the most virtuosic in then-contemporary Europe. But also the Baron von Duernitz, an enthusiastic amateur bassoonist, visited Munich at that time. Mozart was deeply impressed by the vivid bassoon scene he found in Munich.

There is no evidence that the Baron von Tuernitz asked Mozart to compose the Sonata for Bassoon and Violoncello B flat major K.292 together with three more sonatas, which went missing later on. The sonatas for bassoon could have also been an odd job for one of the professional bassoonists.

It is unclear who commissioned the Sonata for Bassoon and Violoncello, but the composition itself is impressive because of its tonal aspects: by using the violoncello as an accompanying instrument, Mozart enabled the bassoon to present its sound uniquely. But there are also sections in the sonata where the violoncello takes the lead and contributes with motifs and singable themes.

The first movement’s concept is the one of a sonata with two main themes, a bridge passage, followed by the execution and a repeated part. The dramatic principal theme and the gentle singable alongside theme remind us of Mozart’s arias from those times.

The second movement, a lyrical andante with its gentle flow and sentimental expression, emphasises the bassoon’s tonal features.

The final movement, a rondo, has esprit and a sense of humour mainly produced by small trills which are generously used and repeated as a principal theme. Similar to the first movement an excellent playing technique of the bassoonist is required when performing the rondo. Moreover, the third movement allows the bassoon to demonstrate its flexibility and versatility

Gloria Bretschneider