Karen Geoghegan’s bassoon playing has a wonderfully
soulful voice which is beguiling and hypnotic. In the hands
of this extraordinary player, it seems as though the bassoon
is ready to burst upon the classical music world as a respectable
This disc of French works for bassoon and piano
begins with Gabriel Grovlez’s Sicilienne et Allegro Giocoso,
with its smooth opening and charming Allegro. The work was
composed in 1930 as a test-piece for the Paris Conservatoire,
where Grovlez studied and later taught chamber music. The
Sonatine by Tansman is altogether more contemporary
in its feel, with rhythmic piano pulses heard behind twisting
bassoon melodies. The central Aria is rich and expressive,
while the final Scherzo is full of energy and played
with youthful vigour.
Charles Koechlin was a pupil of Fauré’s and
an avid promoter of contemporary music. His substantial Sonata
for Bassoon and Piano is an enjoyable work, with a particularly
enjoyable slow movement. Fauré’s Pièce is better known
to me in the arrangement for flute, but was originally composed
for cello in around 1887. The bassoon’s version was made in
1920 by Fernand Oubradours and suits the bassoon’s characteristic
tone very well. A relatively simple piece, the music has the
character of a song and demonstrates Fauré’s excellent feeling
The most contemporary work on the disc is Roger
Boutry’s fantastic Interférences 1, composed in 1972.
A piece full of variety, there are some biting rhythmic passages,
complicated technical demands and lyrical slower moments.
There are obvious influences of Stravinsky and Bartók, as
well as hints of jazz and celebrated French composers such
as Debussy and Poulenc. The piece builds to a frenzy at the
end, and Geoghegan gives a massively convincing performance.
The Récit et Allegro by Noël Gallon
broadly follows the slow-fast structure of Paris Conservatoire
test-pieces. A respected teacher of solfège and counterpoint,
his pupils included Duruflé, Messiaen and Dutilleux. This
is a short work which covers a range of moods in a fantasy-like
Henri Dutilleux is one of France’s leading
contemporary composers, fusing the Romantic tradition with
new harmonic ideas. The Sarabande et Cortège is a relatively
early work, composed in 1942 for the Paris Conservatoire.
It makes excellent use of the tenor range of the bassoon,
with careful scoring against the piano to ensure a good balance.
The Sarabande is dark and sorrowful, while the jaunty
Cortège has a confidence and somewhat care-free nature.
Concertino by Marcel Bitsch is a single
movement work, again composed as a test-piece for the Conservatoire.
Somewhat like Ravel in its style, the rich harmonies in the
slower sections are enjoyable. A well-paced cadenza leads
into an impressive Allegro Vivace. The Nocturne
(d’après John Field) by Jancourt is recorded here for
the first time. A bassoonist himself, Jancourt wrote many
works for the instrument, and this singing Nocturne
makes use of the bassoon’s tone with a wonderful melodic line.
Two more composers are featured on this disc.
Pierné’s Solo de Concert is a heavy-weight work written
for the 1898 Conservatoire tests. No CD of French music would
be complete without a contribution from Debussy and his music
is represented through arrangements of Minstrels (from
Preludes, book 1), The Little Shepherd and Golliwog’s
Cake Walk (from Children’s Corner). The arrangements
work well and provide a light-hearted end to the disc.
This is a disc with musical maturity, which
one would not necessarily expect from a performer of Karen’s
age. There is a depth of understanding in her playing which
suggests that she is a considerable musical talent embarking
on a career full of potential.