> English Bassoon Concertos [CSS]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Eric FOGG (1903-1939)

Bassoon Concerto (1930)
John ADDISON (1920-1998)

Bassoon Concertino (1998)
Peter HOPE (b.1930)

Bassoon Concertino (2000)
Arthur BUTTERWORTH (b.1923)

Summer Music (1985)
Graham Salvage (bassoon)
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland (Butterworth conducted by composer)
Rec 26/27 Feb 2001, Whitfield Street Studios, London
ASV CD WHL 2132 [75.21]


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Lionel Tertis, a campaigner for the viola as a solo instrument, entitled his book on the subject, 'Cinderella No More'. This CD then must surely illustrate the emancipation of the bassoon in a solo role, exploiting its more lyrical aspects. While the voice of the bassoon is characteristically full of a kind of pathos, and has had its more comic aspect exploited to some degree, none of the composers here represented have been tempted, Disney-like, to treat the instrument less than seriously.

Two of the pieces on this recording - those of John Addison and Peter Hope - are certainly light- hearted, even jazzy, with those of Eric Fogg and Arthur Butterworth in more serious vein. What does strike one forcibly is that despite its idiosyncratic sound, the bassoon blends well as a solo voice and can be extremely expressive in a romantic sense.

Here at last is an available recording of the Concerto of Eric Fogg, a work I heard and loved so many years ago. I have been in love with the memory and I'm delighted to say that it is for me no less memorable in performance now, than it has been in retrospect. There are three movements including a bright allegro vivace (whose extremely long cadenza gives the curious impression of the soloist playing a duet with himself). The second movement's lovely long-breathed tune - a kind of Celtic melody - is expanded over a kind of slow march rhythm - and the finale hints at exotic, Spanish colouring. It demonstrates clearly its allegiances in the musical ambience in the UK between the wars, yet has not dated, distinctive enough to sound entirely individual.

Addison's work is entitled Concertino - defining its lighter aspects despite the somewhat portentous cadenza which opens both first and second movements. I sense a French influence - not so much musical as aesthetic - with the second movement developing into a kind of alcoholic waltz à la Ibert. The melancholy song of the third movement (the nearest approach to the comic) is followed by a cheeky giocoso - all colours which one might expect to be found naturally in the palette of a composer of film music, in which role he is better known.

Peter Hope also styles his work 'Concertino' - and after the opening 9/8 melody, unfolded over a rocking harp accompaniment, unashamedly employs ragtime, a quasi-Blues (not however expressive of 4 o'clock in the morning but a kind of lonesome mood alleviated by some exciting xylophone patterns,) and a final calypso/tango.

Arthur Butterworth believes that there is a melancholy aspect in any lonely summer landscape - and his choice of the bassoon for a work he calls 'Summer Music' rather than ‘Concerto’ is entirely appropriate. With the solo instrument being more in a concertante role than concerto the work, though in three movements, becomes more of an elaborate tone poem. His view of Nature is pantheistic coming close as it does to Bax and Sibelius. Many of his compositions seem to begin with a kind of primeval growl, and like Bax his experience of Nature is essentially solitary. His is a distinctive voice and it is regrettable that, with four Symphonies (he has just completed his Fifth!) unrecorded (when Bax, Rubbra and Vaughan Williams, and others have their symphonic canon available in sets) the composer of music as rich in association as this should feel so despondent as to seek solace in art! To have reached opus 113 mostly with orchestral compositions that demand what Bax called 'the Egyptian labour' of scoring is no small achievement. No minimalist he!

All in all this is a welcome addition to what I imagine must be a very small repertoire, and Graham Salvage is an ardent advocate.
Colin Scott-Sutherland

See also review by Philip Scowcroft

See Arthur Butterworth website


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