One of the most prominent bassoon players in the world

Pascal Gallois

Pascal Gallois

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Pascal Gallois is a member of the Ensemble intercontemporain and one of the most prominent bassoon players in the world. Many major composers have written bassoon music with Gallois’ unparalleled control and expression in mind, György Kurtág among them. At this concert, Gallois will play two of his works. Festival focus composer Olga Neuwirth has also written a piece dedicated to Gallois, Torsion: transparent variation, an exquisite composition for bassoon and CD, which will be performed for the first time in the Netherlands. The programme’s pièce de résistance is Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XII (1995), an exuberant work which was dedicated to Gallois and world premiered by him.


Programme book Olga Neuwirth


György Kurtág (1926)
Gérard de Nerval for solo bassoon (1986)

György Kurtág (1926)
György Króo in memoriam for solo bassoon (1997)

Olga Neuwirth (1968)
Torsion for solo bassoon and CD (2003-2005)
Dutch premiere

Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
Sequenza XII per fagotto (1995)

Johannes Maria Staud (1974)
Celluloid for solo bassoon (2011)
Dutch premiere


Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
Dialogue de l’ombre double pour basson et dispositif électronique (1995)
Dutch premiere

Festivalfocus: Olga Neuwirth

Although her music is not yet played often in the Netherlands, Olga Neuwirth is one of the leading international contemporary composers. Her innovative work combines influences from avant garde as well as popular cultures. Drawing on sources from literature, architecture, pop music and cartoons, she is a composer in tune with the modern world. The Holland Festival will stage her exceptional work in a special programme of concerts. 

Neuwirth is known for composing listening experiences, for example in her most recent major work, the acclaimed Le Encantadas, which will be performed at the Gashouder. This piece creates a great impact by the unusual spatial grouping of the performers. In her piece Kloing! a computer controlled Bösendorfer grand piano interacts with a pianist and video footage. In addition, the bassoon virtuoso Pascal Gallois will play her piece Torsion, written especially for him, and composition students from the Royal Conservatory will perform their interpretation of her music in one of their lunchtime concerts. Neuwirth will also be a guest at De kunst van het luisteren (The Art of Listening), an event where she will speak about the way we listen to music and the world around us. It’s a great opportunity to get better acquainted with one of the most exciting composers of our age.


Background information

Does the bassoon have an image problem? Traditionally, it's often used for comical effect, and increasingly fewer children choose to play it. This is why in 2015 the Holland Festival launched the Save the Bassoon campaign, featuring many special concerts and commissions for this 'endangered', but most of all underrated instrument. 

For if you have ever heard Pascal Gallois play, you will have been baffled by the bassoon's expressive range of sound and colour. One of the greatest bassoonists of his generation, Gallois inspired many post-war composers to write works for solo bassoon. In this special solo recital he will perform pieces by György Kurtág, Olga Neuwirth, Luciano Berio, Johannes Maria Staud and Pierre Boulez. 

Gallois' recital will open with two pieces by the Hungarian composer György Kurtág (1926). Kurtág's music was strongly influenced by composers from the first half of the twentieth century, such as Bartók and Webern. Kurtág shares a love for the aphoristic form with the latter − short, small-scale compositions which are succinct and direct in their expression. Two examples are Gérard de Nerval (1986) and György Kroo in memoriam (1997), two elegiac pieces originally written for cello and adapted for the bassoon by Gallois. Gerárd de Nerval features melodies with large intervals, covering the bassoon's full range. Written in memory of a good friend and fellow composer, György Kroo in memoriam is composed of variations on a gradually descending melody. 

In her home country Austrian, composer Olga Neuwirth (1968) is seen as the enfant terrible of the avant-garde. Neuwirth's music is characterised by an uncompromising search for new sounds, sometimes unexpectedly interrupted by musical quotations from the past. Torsion, a piece for bassoon and CD, is a case in point, alternating between acrobatic runs and longer, sustained tones, which Neuwirth has instructed to be played with overtones and noise effects. Initially, the CD adds an extra acoustic dimension to those effects, but later in the piece it suddenly introduces Klezmer recordings with swinging clarinet solos, creating an exciting dialogue between old and new. 

Italian composer Luciano Berio (1925–2003) cherished a life-long fascination for virtuosity, not for its own sake but as a means to discover new sounds and open up new possibilities of expression. His sense of adventure is reflected in a series of Sequenze, virtuoso pieces for solo instruments (1958-2002). Sequenza XII for bassoon had been especially written for Pascal Gallois, who premiered the piece in 1995. This work required extended techniques of the tongue to modify airflow and circular breathing to play the endlessly sustained notes, phrases and glissandi. In addition, Berio also required the soloist to produce multiple sounds by singing through the instrument while playing. 

Celluloid (2011) by the Austrian composer Johannes Maria Staud (1974) is clearly inspired by Berio's Sequenza XII as well as Gallois' book The Techniques of Bassoon Playing (2009, original title Die Spieltechnik des Fagotts). The title hints at Staud's regret that just like the bassoon, old celluloid tapes have become nearly obsolete. The piece starts and ends quietly, but in between reaches great climaxes with spectral sounds and breathtaking tremolos and fortissimi.

As a tribute to the deceased composer Pierre Boulez, Gallois performs Dialogue de l'ombre double pour basson et dispositif électronique. Boulez (1925-2016) was one of the most audacious and versatile postwar composers. In Dialogue de l’ombre double pour basson et dispositif électronique, he explores the spatiality of sound. The piece was originally written for clarinet and loudspeakers, but is performed here, for the first time in the Netherlands, in a version with bassoon. The title was inspired by Paul Claudel’s play Le Soullier de Satin (1924), in which a scene occurs where the shadows of a man and a woman are treated as a single character. The play contains many abrupt shifts in location. Through the placement of the soloist, the audience and the loudspeakers, an imagined space is created, full of shades and ‘scene changes’. Gilbert Nouno of IRCAM is responsible for the sound engineering. The bassoonist is placed in the middle, surrounded by six loudspeakers, the audience is seated in between. The loudspeakers play bassoon parts recorded prior to the performance. Initially only one speaker plays, but gradually more speakers join in, until all speakers sound simultaneously in the final section. With this, Dialogue de l’ombre double creates a climax. Boulez compared this effect to the trickling in of Luciano Berio’s friends, as he composed the piece for the sixtieth anniversary of his Italian colleague.       

In this concert, Pascal Gallois will not only demonstrate the bassoon's rich sound and expressive range, but also present a fascinating cross-section of post-war music.


Save the Bassoon

Save the Bassoon will have its roaring finale this June. The campaign was launched during the 2015 Holland Festival to save the bassoon from decline and stimulate children to pick up a classical instrument. Thanks to all our partners, the initiative has been a great success throughout the country. World-class bassoonists Pascal Gallois and Bram van Sambeek will give concerts at this year’s festival. Merlijn Twaalfhoven will write a new composition for more than one hundred bassoonists of all abilities, and everyone is invited to join in. There will also be a number of ancillary activities. You can take part in our bassoon course for absolute beginners and there’s a masterclass by Pascal Gallois for bassoon students. After all the media attention at the launch of Save the Bassoon last year, this will be a fitting finale to a successful campaign.



Pascal Gallois (1958) is one of the greatest bassoon players of his generation. Gallois specialises in the performance of post-war classical music. He studied with Maurice Allard, graduating summa cum laude at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, where he in turn taught between 1994 and 2000. 

Since 2002 he has been a professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Zurich. He also teaches at the Darmstadt Internationales Musikinstitut and he is director of the Paris Conservatoire Municipal W.A. Mozart. 

Since 1981, Gallois has been a member of the Ensemble intercontemporain. He is also in great demand as a solo performer of post-war music. His solos have included the French premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's In Freundschaft (1984) and the world premieres of Pierre Boulez’ Dialogue de l’ombre double for bassoon (1995) and Wolfgang Rihm's Psalmus (2007) for bassoon and orchestra. One of the high points of Gallois' career has been performing the world premiere of Sequenza XII by Luciano Berio (1995), which was written for him especially. Other composers have also written bassoon music with Gallois' unparalleled control and expression in mind, among them György Kurtág, Olga Neuwirth, Philippe Fénelon and Brice Pauset. In 2009, Gallois published Die Spieltechnik des Fagotts (The Techniques of Bassoon Playing), which he wrote for instrumentalists as well as for composers to familiarise themselves with the bassoon's possibilities. 



Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, György Kurtág, Olga Neuwirth, Johannes Maria Staud