Author Identifier

Katherine Walpole

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Performing Arts)


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Supervisor

Jonathan Paget

Second Supervisor

Stewart Smith

Third Supervisor

Jonathan Marshall


This research project investigates the role of the bassoon in the basso of the early symphonies of Mozart, Haydn and Contemporaries in the 1760s and 1770s. It draws on surviving primary source material pertaining to bassoonists and orchestral practices across Europe before 1780. Autograph scores of Haydn, Mozart and his contemporaries usually scored early Classical symphonies for pairs of oboes, horns, two violin sections, viola and basso. Modern scholars have described these compositions as symphonies for pairs of oboes, pairs of horns and strings, and have translated basso to mean cellos and basses. Eliminating the eighteenth-century term basso has also removed bassoons from the bass section of the early Classical orchestra.

The socioeconomic and aesthetic scene at the beginning of the second half of the eighteenth century is discussed in order to envisage the world in which eighteenth-century bassoonists worked. From this contextual mindset, hypotheses about how bassoonists performed from the generic basso parts are tested against evidence from a variety of surviving sources. Convincing evidence shows the bassoon to be a valuable addition to the basso, adding timbral variation, clarity of articulation and support to the harmonic foundation. In the undertaking of this research, a complete set of orchestral parts was discovered in an Austrian monastery. This is a significant find because the parts were most likely created from Mozart’s autograph, written out by a Viennese copyist frequently employed by Mozart. This previously unstudied set of parts for the A major symphony KV201 uncovers historic performance practice of how a bassoon plays the basso line. The significance of the findings are explicated in a hypothetical concert series.



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