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Twentieth Century Bassoon Concertos
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Ciranda des sete notas (1933) [11.30]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Concerto for trumpet, bassoon and string orchestra (1949-52) [16.24]
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Concerto for bassoon, string orchestra, harp and piano (1954) [14.11]
Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b.1931)
Concerto for bassoon and low strings (1975) [27.29]
Sergio Azzolini (bassoon)
Matthias Höfs (trumpet)
Vida Izadi (harp)
Tomoko Takahashi (piano)
Kammerakademie Potsdam/Maurice Bourgue
Recorded in the Funkhaus, Berlin, Studio 10, August-November 2001
CAPRICCIO 67.139 [69.36]


Released in tandem with a disc devoted to oboe concertos this bassoon disc makes for some fruitful conjunctions of style and mood. Villa-Lobos’s Ciranda des sete notas was written in 1933 and opens with an arresting call to arms and is full of lyric episodes  - curlicues and roulades as well. But it saves the best for last – from about 7.05 there emerges a cantilena of exquisite beauty that presages the quiet and reflective ending. Only problems of programming this eleven minute work could have held back its greater impression; it’s a true charmer.

Hindemith, by contrast, didn’t go in for charm of that sort though those expecting his double concerto to be a dutiful, craggy exploration couldn’t be further from the truth. Though they’re often pitched together in a lot of unison writing the trumpet and bassoon’s lines are full of telling incident and timbral interest. No less in fact than the accompanying figures – take a listen to the refulgent string lines in the opening movement, warmly witty throughout. Though there’s some determined writing in the compact slow movement there’s more sophisticated wit in the pesante section of the succeeding Allegro, where, from time to time the trumpet in this recording perhaps inevitably overbalances the bassoon. The finale is the trumpet/bassoon equivalent of the finale of the Barber Violin Concerto, a super-quick (here 1.38) romp. This movement was the last to be written, following the rest of the body of the concerto three years later. As an envoi it works irresistibly well.

Jolivet’s 1954 Concerto is in four, classic baroque-type movements opening with a Recitativo. Based though it is on the Sonata Chiesa there are some jazz-inflected moments where the piano plays its part, and where a degree of neo-classicism vies with virtuosic runs for interest. The slow movement is especially finely - chiselled by Jolivet – lyrical, cushioned accompanying figures, with colourful parts for harp and piano, and the bassoon occupying the middle of the texture. Finally there’s the most recent of the quartet of compositions, Gubaidulina’s Concerto. This was written in 1975 and is by some way the longest of the works, lasting nearly half an hour. It employs a panoply of gestures and then-contemporary sound worlds – slithery strings, abrasion, pizzicato and slash, staccato wring for the protagonist and thwacked accompanying string figures. Much here is intriguing – from the rather metallic evocations, the repeated figures that seem to act as an obsessive element of the writing and the elusively quiet monologue of the soloist. The eerie sonorities and the embedded “laughter” she makes the bassoon evoke are all diverting as well, though the opening movement is very much the longest and tends formally to overbalance the work.

A contrasting quartet then, loyally and persuasively performed, and well presented.

Jonathan Woolf







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