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Composed: 2022

Orchestration: 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone (=bass trombone), tuba, timpani, percussion (temple blocks, bass drum, glockenspiel, triangle, vibraphone, xylophone), harp, piano, strings, and solo bassoon

About this Piece

Opus Serena celebrates the life and achievements of one of the greatest athletes of all time, Serena Williams, in the form of a biographical, power-packed concertino for bassoon and orchestra. The work begins as a tennis match, with Serena (depicted by the bassoon soloist) versus the entire orchestra. The dialogue captures certain moments within the match, from the nuanced preparation of the serve to the ball toss and strike, to the rhythm created from the pace of the ball moving across the court, and the gasps of surprise from the crowd. Cascading riffs battle between the bassoonist and the woodwind section, eventually arriving at a moment of triumph, where Serena serves an uncontested ace. The cadenza that follows gives voice to the frustration many athletes feel at the post-match press conference, when questioned in dubious manner by the press.

After transitioning into a brief ballad section, the soloist robustly rounds off the piece, taking what I call “the anthem of champions” to a higher level of virtuosity. The shout of repeated notes caps off the full power, range, and skill of the bassoon as a fierce embodiment of Serena’s indomitable courage and brilliant strategic mind.

—Excerpted from notes by Valerie Coleman