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Music for Bassoon and String Quartet
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)

Suite for Bassoon and String Quartet (1969)
Prelude [3:01] Caprice [1:26] Elegy {3:16] Rondo [2:30]
Franz DANZI (1763-1826)

Bassoon Quartet in B flat Op.40 No.3 (c.1814)
Allegro moderato [8:32] Larghetto non troppo [4:24] Minuetto [3:07] Allegretto [3:39]
Anton REICHA (1770-1836)

Grand Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet (1826)
Allegro moderato [11:02] Lento arioso [8:31] Menuet [3:46] Presto [10:27]
Daniel Smith (bassoon); Coull Quartet
Rec. St. Peter’s Church, Morden, Surrey, 1988 DDD
FORUM FRC 9107 [63:59]

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Without doubt, the label that is doing most to bring us relatively unknown but worthwhile music at a very low price is Naxos. Most of their issues are new recordings but there is a company - Regis Records - that seems to specialise in licensing (from many sources) excellent recordings languishing undeservedly in vaults after full-price issue and deletion. These generally contain worthwhile but not mainstream music played by fine artists which it is good have accessible at bargain price. The present issue is on their Forum label, the distinction of which from the main label (Regis) is not clear to me (the price is the same – about £5) but it might be relevant that the solo artist here is given as the source of the licence. The disc further affirms my experience of the potential for affordable buried treasure when you see the names Regis or Forum.

Gordon Jacob spent many years as a Professor at the Royal College of Music in London and was quite a prolific composer. He seems under-represented on disc – probably his most recorded work is the orchestral arrangement of Vaughan-Williams’s English Folk Song Suite. The Suite recorded here was written for one of his students – bassoonist William Waterhouse, and he provides the excellent notes to accompany the disc. In its ten minutes the suite covers a wide range of expression. The opening prelude is slow and rather plaintive, followed by a caprice which is fleeting and as humorous as might be expected. The Elegy is dark indeed and Jacob interweaves the bassoon and strings to powerful effect. Its ending is abrupt and the Rondo which follows has a "life goes on" feel to it.

Franz Danzi wrote plentifully for wind instruments and his bassoon concertos are reasonably well-known (and available on Naxos). He wrote three bassoon quartets for Jacques Hartmann, a factory owner and amateur bassoonist, and the last is played here. It is conventional in terms of structure and material, and looks back rather than forward considering what Beethoven was writing at the time. Nevertheless, admirers of Mozart’s chamber music with wind will find it most enjoyable.

Anton Reicha’s Grand Quintet dates from the next decade and is made of less immediately attractive but rather more solid material. A specialist in Wind Quintets, Reicha dedicated this one to the bassoonist Antoine Henry but it has remained unpublished to this day. Again, the structure is conventional but Reicha’s writing for the bassoon is most inventive. The finale, marked Presto, is particularly impressive.

The American bassoonist Daniel Smith is on fine form throughout the disc. His intonation is perfect and, whilst he makes the most of the music, nothing is overstated. The Coull Quartet are highly sympathetic accompanists and blend in most effectively. The late 1980s sound originally comes from ASV and is completely natural.

I can recommend this disc highly to anyone. To those lacking much music with the bassoon as a solo instrument or by the composers represented, I suggest that it should find an immediate place on their wish-list.

Patrick C Waller


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