Skip to main content

The bassoon is a double-reed woodwind that provides a distinctive tone and character. Its exact origins are obscure. The bassoon seems to have appeared in France in the mid- to late-17th century, and some scholars have suggested that the prototype may have been the invention of an instrument maker named Martin Hotteterre. The bassoon improved upon and ultimately supplanted an earlier woodwind called the dulcian – although the dulcian also remained in use for some years.

Many baroque and classical composers valued the bassoon for a stately, noble tone that was sometimes used to signify grief and mourning. Johann Christian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, and others wrote for the bassoon, often as a solo instrument.

The modern bassoon is the result of numerous enhancements, and is somewhat different in tone from its baroque ancestor. In this regard, the modern bassoon’s more recent history is analogous to that of the modern concert flute.