On 10 + 11 May, Principal Bassoon Antoine St-Onge performs with the Orchestra as soloist in Brilliant Bassoon — a concert where audiences will experience all the expressive capabilities of the bassoon — athletic agility, touching tenderness, and virtuosic velocity as Antoine shows them off in Carl Maria Von Weber’s theatrical concerto.

Q : Tell us about your Benson Bell bassoon that you perform on. 

A:  Benson Bell is a Canadian bassoon maker based in Peterborough, Ontario. He actually lived in Alberta and studied bassoon at the University of Calgary with former Calgary Phil principal bassoon Stephen Franse! I met Benson at a music festival in Quebec where he was teaching instrument maintenance and helping to repair bassoons. Most of the bassoon section in the Montreal Symphony had just received their new Bell basson around 2010, which encouraged me to get one as well. I received mine in 2012 — a beautiful red varnished instrument made of Canadian maple. 

Q: Tell us about the significance of Weber’s Bassoon Concerto.

A: Carl Maria von Weber wrote the bassoon concerto in 1811 for the Munich Court Orchestra and their brilliant bassoon player, Georg Friedrich Brandt. At the time, the most famous symphonic solo work for this instrument was Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto. Weber is considered by many music scholars to be one of the first great Romantic composers, writing music full of contrasts in between lyricism, drama, change of character, and virtuosity. The bassoon concerto was very well received by audiences and became quickly popular, making it the second most important symphonic piece featuring the bassoon after Mozart’s.

Q What should audiences listen for in Weber’s Bassoon Concerto? 

A: Weber’s music is inspired by the operatic world, jumping from strong confident themes to lovely poignant melodies. In the first movement, the triumphant first theme is interrupted by a reflective and calm second theme.

It culminates in a glorious and brilliant finish, exploring in a fierce manner the whole bassoon register. The second movement is a beautiful aria that reminds the listener of an Italian opera. One of the most special moments of the whole piece is a passage written for two horns and solo bassoon, where the sounds mix together and create a beautiful timbre. The last movement is a light rondo that has a catchy and silly theme. The piece ends in a spectacular culmination of scales and arpeggios, demonstrating one last time the virtuosic capabilities of the bassoon. 

Q: You’re originally from Quebec. What do you like about living in Calgary? 

A: The first thing that comes to mind is how lucky I am to be part of such a wonderful orchestra. I am very happy to be surrounded by warm, dedicated, and inspiring colleagues. My love of the outdoors also made Calgary become a home quickly, as the mountains and the vast landscapes are an incredible playground for me all year round! 

Q: You’re a snowboarder. How does snowboarding compare here to back in Quebec? 

A: I find myself privileged to have grown up in a forested and rural area of Quebec, where there was lots of snow during winter. I have always been amazed by the beauty of nature buried under snow, especially in the mountains. Since I was a kid, I always dreamed of living in the western part of Canada, where big mountains cover a lot of the territory. Snowboarding in Quebec was a joy that prepared me to what is to be explored around here in Calgary and its surroundings. I am glad to be able to share that adventurous passion with many friends and colleagues in the orchestra! 

Brilliant Bassoon
10 + 11 May / 7:30PM
Jack Singer Concert Hall