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The Playful Pachyderm - Classic miniatures for bassoon and orchestra
Johann Wilhelm GANGLBERGER (1876-1938)

Mein Teddybär – polka [5:06]
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Romance op.62 [5:29]
Jean Baptiste SENAILLÉ (c.1688-1730)

Allegro Spiritoso – arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [2:55]
Traditional Swedish folk melody

‘Gånglåt fra Äppelbo’ - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [3:30]
‘Mist-covered Mountains’ - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins, with Catriona McKay, clairsach
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Pièce - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [3:28]
Gilbert VINTER (1909-1969)

The Playful Pachyderm – orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [6:33]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)

Four Studies in English Folk-Song – orchestrated by Robert Stanton [5:10]
Traditional Northumbrian folk melody

Bonny at Morn - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [4:03]
Fred GODFREY (1837-1882)

Lucy Long – edited by Laurence Perkins [4:03]
Charles-François GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Funeral March of a Marionette - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [4:40]
Julius FUČIK (1872-1916)

Der Alte Brummbär - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [4:37]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Pièce en forme de habañera – orchestrated by Arthur Hoërée [3:11]
James Ord HUME (1864-1932)

The Carnival - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins [5:42]
J. Quentyn ASHLYN (fl. 1900)

The Bassoon - arranged and orchestrated by Laurence Perkins, with Richard Suart, baritone [3:28]
Laurence Perkins (bassoon)
New London Symphony Orchestra/Ronald Corp
Recorded in St. Jude-on-the-hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, 3-4 July 2003
HYPERION CDA67453 [68:43]


A number of instruments are under threat today because not enough children are taking them up. These include the trombone, the tuba, the viola, the double bass, the oboe - and the bassoon. You’ll notice that most of these are lower pitched instruments, which are also large, difficult to transport and expensive. The oboe doesn’t appear to fit these specifications but because of its double reed, it is much more difficult (in the early stages at least) than the flute or clarinet, and so tends to lose out to them.

The bassoon is at a disadvantage on all counts, for it is quite cumbersome and very expensive, and, like the oboe, difficult to play because of its double-reed. Add to that its complex fingerings and its apparent lack of solo repertoire, and it isn’t hard to understand why there is a critical shortage of promising young bassoonists today.

Apparent lack of solo repertoire, please note; and indeed, on closer inspection, you find that there is a huge treasury of music for this wonderful and unique instrument. Vivaldi, for example, wrote well over thirty concertos, and there is a mass of attractive Baroque, Classical and later music. For some reason, though, bassoonists - and I speak as one myself - seem a somewhat unadventurous bunch, and sadly much of it still remains unexplored.

Not so Laurence Perkins! He has produced a number of recordings over the years, often with eye-catching titles. Who could forget ‘L’Après-Midi d’un Dinosaur’, his first disc for Hyperion, for example? Here is another imaginative and varied collection, played sensitively and musically by Mr. Perkins, and ably accompanied by Ronald Corp and his New London Symphony Orchestra.

These are very much bite-sized pieces, the longest track being the ‘title track’ by Gilbert Vinter at just 6:33 – a jolly number with rag-time rhythms. To balance this, there is plenty of variety, with some 19th century ‘lollipops’ – Godfrey’s ‘Lucy Long’, Gounod’s ‘Funeral March of a Marionette’ (which may well appeal to Hitchcock fans if they recall its use as his signature tune back in the 1950s), along with a number of folk-music inspired pieces, ranging from Vaughan Williams’ tiny ‘Studies in English Folk-Song’ to some arrangements of Perkins’ own. The most appealing of these I found to be ‘Bonny at Morn’, attractively orchestrated, and hauntingly wistful.

The set includes two little masterpieces; the first is Elgar’s ‘Romance’ for bassoon and orchestra, written around the same time as the Violin Concerto. Elgar played the bassoon as a young man, and the piece is beautifully conceived for the instrument. The other is the Ravel ‘Habañera’, which sounds as magical as ever in this arrangement by Arthur Hoërée. Perkins is at his best here, bending the music stylishly, and even managing a couple of semi glissandi towards the end – extremely tricky to accomplish on the bassoon.

I admire Perkins’ playing very much; it is expressive and highly polished. Sometimes, though, his tone lacks intensity and bloom, particularly in the middle register, and this has led to one or two balance problems e.g. in ‘Mist-covered Mountains’. But this is a small carp, and generally, this is a most entertaining and engaging collection. It concludes with a real Victorian speciality – the humorous song ‘The Bassoon’, full of mischievous double-entendre. This excellent encore, fit to be set alongside Elgar’s ‘Smoking Cantata’ which received its first recording this year (all 51 seconds of it!), is by the ‘mystery man’ J. Quentyn Ashlyn, and let’s hope this triggers a revival of his songs, which were apparently hugely popular in the 1890s.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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