Antonio Rosetti is known to most musicians only as
the so-called ‘inventor’ of the Wind Quintet, and has thus gained
the status of an ‘IHF’ – the great D.F. Tovey’s amusingly snooty
label for the relatively talentless individuals who people the
pages of musical history – ‘Interesting Historical Figures’.
Is this label a fair one for Rosetti (or ‘Rösler’
as he seems to have been born in what is now the Czech Republic)?
These four concertos are genial, attractive music, well-crafted
and gratefully written for the soloist. As you can see, Rosetti
was an almost exact contemporary of Mozart’s, and, as the latter’s
one surviving bassoon concerto is in the key occupied by three
of Rosetti’s works – Bb major – the comparison is clearly there
to be made. Not surprisingly, Mozart’s little masterpiece, one
of his most delightful youthful works, is in a completely different
league. But then, Mozart’s music is in a completely different
league from almost everyone else’s anyway, so that the comparison
doesn’t really tell you much about Rosetti!
The honest truth is that these concertos are
very bland. They rarely do anything remotely surprising, and the
harmony clings closely to the primary triads in whatever key the
music is in at the time. Melodies are formulaic and hardly any
of them stuck in my memory, the notable exception being the jaunty
rondo theme of the F major Concerto. In fact, this movement is
probably the most characterful of the twelve on this disc, with
little quirky changes of tempo for the various sections and some
nice touches of humour.
Here, as elsewhere, the playing by Holder and
his accompanists is of a consistently high standard. The music
may be unremarkable, but the solo parts are tricky, with all kinds
of scale and arpeggio passages, rapid staccato writing, wide skips
etc. This is the ‘bread and butter’ of bassoon solo music, but
Holder succeeds in making it sound a great deal easier than it
actually is. His tone is emphatically German – super-smooth, with
impeccable intonation within a narrow dynamic range. The New Brandenburg
Orchestra plays stylishly and cleanly, always balancing sensitively
with the unassuming soloist.
Enjoyable, undemanding music, captured beautifully
in this excellent recording.