> The Bassoon Brothers - Captured [WH]: Classical CD Reviews- Sept 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Bassoon Brothers CAPTURED!

Fanfare for the Common Bassoonist (Copland/Eubanks)
Hey Jude (Lennon/McCartney/Luis)
Mexican Hat Dance (Partichala/Young)
My Funny Valentine (Rodgers/Hart/Eubanks)
My Girl (Robinson/White/Eubanks)
Carmen Crusader Suite (Bizet/Eubanks)
Pigs (Ridout)
Yankee Doodle (arr. Bartkowiak)
Louie, Louie, Roll Out the Barrel (Berry/Eubanks)
Send in the Clowns (Sondheim/Eubanks)
Funeral March of a Marionette (Gounod/Solie)
Three Little Maids from the Mikado (Gilbert & Sullivan/Eubanks)
The Godfather Suite (Rota/Eubanks)
Pizzicato Polka (Strauss/Eubanks)
Electronic Suite (arr. Eubanks)
Londonderry Air (arr. Eubanks)
Rec 2000 DDD


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Let me say at the outset that the playing on this disc is absolutely outstanding, which should come as no surprise when you know that The Bassoon Brothers Ė Mark Eubanks, Robert Naglee, Juan De Gomar and (sister) Bonnie Fillmore Cox Ė are all members of either the Oregon or the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. That said, whether or not you enjoy this album depends more, I think, on your sense of humour than on your interest, or otherwise, in the bassoon.

"Just plain hilarious" said the Seattle Times about The Bassoon Brothersí previous disc. I havenít heard it, but humour is such a personal thing. I well remember laughing like a fool at Rowan and Martinís Laugh-In on British television in the sixties. Hilarious was a word I used about that, even after I realised that my fatherís opinion Ė feeble Ė was the right one. We all laughed, though, and many may laugh along with this disc. But not me, Iím afraid.

"Captured" is a collection of pieces arranged for ensemble of bassoons by, in most cases, Mark Eubanks, with intermittent support from a selection of other instruments including guitar and drums. There is one original piece, Pigs, for four double bassoons, by the British composer Alan Ridout, which I find, perhaps significantly, the funniest piece of the lot by a fair margin. In any event it exploits in a quite uncanny way the particular qualities of this very particular and limiting ensemble. For the rest many of the pieces seem to have been chosen primarily because they are totally unsuited to the group, and therefore the result will inevitably be funny. In some cases this works quite well. Stephen Sondheimís beautiful Send in the Clowns suffers more from a horrible and quite gratuitous change of key than it does from the arrangement, but I wonít be abandoning Glynis Johns all the same. Whether Straussís Pizzicato Polka will have you rolling in the aisles depends on your sense of humour, but I find the original Three Little Maids far funnier in context than I do here. The disc opens with an arrangement for bassoons and other instruments of Coplandís Fanfare for the Common Man, called here Fanfare for the Common Bassoonist. I quote from the liner notes: "Öwhich has become a popular audience participation number. Kazoos are provided and the audience encouraged to stomp and clank things for the percussion effects." Nothing in this description can prepare the unsuspecting listener for the truth! Incidentally, the kazoo, not one of my favourite instruments, features in several of the arrangements, and I suspect that an enthusiasm for the kazoo might be the key to the humour here.

Mr. Eubanks also enjoys alluding to other works. So even if itís unsurprising to find a Lady of Spain dancing her way across the set of Carmen, quite what Batman is doing there is anybodyís guess. And Rogers and Hartís My Funny Valentine is embellished by references to Tchaikovskyís swan, Mozartís Figaro, The Pink Panther and no doubt many others too erudite for me to have noticed.

To be fair, humour is not the only ingredient. Hey Jude is given fairly straight, and the disc ends with an attempt to make a touching thing out of the Londonderry Air played by bassoons.

If this is the kind of thing you like you shouldnít hesitate, especially as the playing is of such quality. All the same, and to be terribly boring, I think this album does nothing for those who know little about the bassoon and appreciate it still less. It is a most expressive, if perhaps limited, instrument. The opening of Tchaikovskyís Pathétique and the jolly tune in Chabrierís España give an idea of the instrumentís range of expression, and there are countless examples of wonderful bassoon writing in the music of Ravel and other French composers. Then letís not forget the sublime counterpoint to the second statement of the Ode to Joy theme in the finale of Beethovenís 9th, or Bartókís way with the bassoon section in his Concerto for Orchestra. But this is perhaps to miss the point: even if most of these arrangements seem to aim for a kind of slapstick humour which undermines, to my mind, the dignity of the instrument, you might well react quite differently.

There is one piece Iíll be going back to though, an arrangement of "Smokey" Robinsonís My Girl which achieves, almost uniquely here, what a good arrangement should, which is to say that the original is transformed in its new setting into something else, something which works, and which is, in this case, both beautiful and even strangely moving.

William Hedley


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