John Williams' "The Five Sacred Trees Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra": A pedagogical approach to developing technique through literature

John Michael Lopinto

Abstract

John Williams, notable contemporary film composer, has extended his compositional efforts to includes concert works. The Five Sacred Trees Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra is one such piece, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic on the occasion of its 150th anniversary and for its principal bassoonist, Judith LeClaire. With her guidance, Williams crafted a masterpiece of both stunning beauty and technical wizardry for not only LeClaire, but also the modern pupil of bassoon. Parallels with solo and orchestral literature for bassoon make it an excellent teaching tool for the progressing college student through a course of study, culminating with a performance of the piece in its entirety supported and prepared by a broad repertoire. The dissertation focuses on a movement-by-movement analysis of technical and musical components of the Williams concerto. After an extensive review of solo and orchestral literature, selected works are systematically placed in correlation to Williams' components to develop a progressive curriculum that not only facilitates the successful performance of the movement, but also expands the student's repertoire base with works containing similar techniques. A re-ordering of the movements of Williams' concerto allows for a continual "raising of the bar" as the student progresses, providing growth from freshman to senior level. By using this particular concerto, students have the opportunity to perform a substantial concerto by a major composer of the 20 th century with a program of studies that, movement by movement, includes historical and theoretical components from Baroque to modern times.