Riflessioni (2014) · 17.5 min

Concerto for Bassoon, Orchestra, and Electronics

2 flutes (1 doubling alto flute, 1 doubling bass flute), oboe (doubling English horn), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), bass clarinet (doubling contrabass clarinet), bassoon, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, contrabass trombone, 3 percussionists, keyboard (with laptop running Max/MSP), accordion, bassoon solo, strings

Written for Patrick de Ritis, Principal Bassoon, Wiener Symphoniker

Program Note

Riflessioni, Italian for “reflections,” touches several layers of meaning. De Ritis wrote the piece for the bassoonist Patrick de Ritis, principal bassoon of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the ensemble European Wind Soloists. The bassoonist’s family has roots in the same region in Italy, Abruzzo, as the composer; their paths crossed first in 2005. The encounter with a musician sharing his name led Anthony De Ritis to contemplate the nature of identity and connection: “reflecting” his own musical personality off the bassoonist’s, as it were.

Compositionally, Riflessioni employs a technique Anthony De Ritis has used on a number of occasions: he recorded Patrick playing composed and improvised fragments, which he then assembled into an electronic piece, adding effects and synthesized parts. This sketch (which for all intents is a successful standalone work) was then incorporated in the orchestral fabric of the concerto, controlled via the interactive music software Max/MSP: thus the pre-recorded and live soloist “reflect” one another, with the orchestra adding a further level of reflection. Both sources are also subject to real-time electronic modification. An accordion — the sound always surprising in an orchestra — acts as a liaison.

The piece begins from an F-sharp, sustained but rhythmically “breathing,” from which the harmonic world blossoms. After its calm opening, the bassoon solo becomes frenetic and sometimes aggressive, its quick, falling chromatic gestures verging on percussion sound. Both ideas, the unstable and the sustained, are projected — that is, reflected — into the orchestra, and the electronics echo and develop the solo. A lyrical line for the soloist comes to the foreground, harmonized in strings, while the chromatic motif becomes accompaniment in the electronic samples, percussion, and winds. Just at the point of greatest fragmentation, the F-sharp returns to usher in a passage of shimmering harmony dispersed throughout the orchestra. As though impatient with this extreme contrast, the soloist again suggests the chromatic figure before instigating a surreal, strangely distorted section, abetted by its electronic shadow. The coda briefly distills and juxtaposes the two contrasting characters.

Robert Kirzinger

View Score

Riflessioni was recorded on October 14, 2014 by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under the direction of Gil Rose, Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, MA; released on BMOP/sound 1051, January 24, 2017.


Riflessioni (reflections) is a colorful work… largely static, but quite beautiful.”

– Ken Keaton, American Record Guide, (November/December 2017)


Riflessioni, a dark and minatory concerto for bassoon, electronics and orchestra… compellingly ‘reflects’ the lyrical and the aggressive, the stable and the unstable, light and dark, and sustains its length throughout.”

– Guy Rickards, Gramophone, (June 2017)


Riflessioni enters more complex labyrinthian depths of orchestral complexity with mysterioso darkness and heightened expressionist syntax.”

– Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review (September 1, 2017) 


“Highly enjoyable, a natural and effective combination of regular instruments and electronic sounds… Riflessioni… is a fascinating work, with jagged orchestral interjections… This is a major issue of American music.”

– Robert E. Benson, Classical CD Review, (April 2017)


“De Ritis’s Riflessioni… showcases the solo bassoon in all sorts of clever ways. Through the electronics, the instrument’s timbre is continuously transformed… De Ritis’s musical language is eclectic. He makes much of drawing his influences from all over the map and Riflessioni demonstrates the sure command and maturity of his technique… Throughout, a strongly lyrical voice pervades the music. Technically, it is filled with fluid exchanges of ideas between the soloist and orchestra: oftentimes the one accompanies the other with completely contrasting gestures and to striking effect.”

– Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse, October 15, 2014


Riflessioni… applies electronics from the outside in, to greatly enlarge the soloist’s sonic footprint… a kinetic and lyrical ride.”

– Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe, October 14, 2014


Riflessioni was composed … using material the bassoonist had recorded for the purpose. Adding another ‘reflection’ to the mix, the composer designed the piece to be shaped electronically during the performance itself, using Max/MSP software.

One heard this process at work immediately, as soloist Patrick de Ritis began the piece with a long, soft F sharp that could be heard morphing into a sort of super-bassoon sound before agitated trombones burst in on it. A jittery mood seemed to lurk around every corner of the one-movement work, sometimes expressed by the solo bassoon in sharp staccato bursts.

Softly descending strings offered comfort, however, forming blue chords of an Ellingtonian flavor, not surprising for a composer with a reputation for getting his ideas from all over.

In contrast, at one point a crescendo of jerky big-band brass riffs culminated in a scream from the soloist’s double-reed mouthpiece, temporarily detached from the instrument.

Throughout, the electronic sound was cunningly meshed with that of the orchestra. One was occasionally aware of, say, a note seeming to grow and spread over the room, or the brass section’s tone color changing in a way that does not occur in nature. But no Wendy Carlos boops and beeps intruded on this sound tapestry…

–  David Wright, Boston Classical Review, October 13, 2014

Concert Program