The bassoon is not
everyone's first choice for a favourite, euphonious, sensuous
instrument. It's darker than the flute, breathier than the clarinet
and less harmonically rich than the oboe. But place it in the
hands of a composer of the calibre of Vivaldi and a player like
Klaus Thunemann, whose CD this very much is and you may love it
more after these 55 minutes of splendid and exhilarating music
on offer in this ArkivMusic Philips reissue. I Musici
also do the composer proud.
When Vaughan Williams
was asked to compose his tuba concerto, one of the first things
he did was sit down and make a list of all the 'tricks' of which
the instrument was capable; he then ticked them off as he included
each effect in his concerto. Vivaldi was wiser. Despite writing
over three dozen concertos for the instrument, he obviously never
felt the need to emphasise any kind of spurious exoticism, enhance
the sense that it was out-of-the-way or was not just another instrument
capable of expressing its range of sounds.
That this is true
is evident from the first movement of the first of the six delicious
concerti on this jewel of a disc. Like, perhaps, Vivaldi's concerti
scored for mandolin, there is a strong
contrast between soloist and orchestra. But listen to the way
Vivaldi delicately balances continuo, strings and bassoon in the
allegro of RV 503 (the B Flat concerto); the melodic line is cleanly
developed, the direction forceful and the soundscape tidy yet
deep without a hint of false sonorities or fey virtuosity.
Not all of these 37
concerti have adequate performing editions. Clearly not all are
of the same high standard as some other of Vivaldi's concerti.
If you stop to think about it: why compose quite so many bassoon
concerti: there are only 27 cello concerti? But those chosen for
this CD really are outstanding, and outstandingly well played.
If unconvinced, listen to the first then second movements of RV
483 (the E Flat): despite his aforementioned wish to avoid showiness,
a distinctive aspect of Vivaldi's scoring for the bassoon is an
embellished bass line with both speedy flights up and down the
scale and even faster arpeggios. But the melodies! Lambent, watery,
creamy, colourful - the tunes which these decorations support
are pure delights. And not only in the fast passages (the
allegro molto of RV 497, the A Minor, is even redolent
at times of the Four Seasons). But also
in the more ruminative - without dredging or sludging
- movements. The good ideas which Vivaldi produces aren’t
spoilt by lingering. These melodies - Thunemann and I Musici are
innately in accord with one another and with this - emerge from
the page like the Venetian mist rising from its pavements and
As with all these
Arkiv CDs you are getting a record company-authorised
CDR at a favourable price, a reproduction of the original cover
and back of booklet. The original liner-notes are not included.
So this is a disc
- one of a series of three - to buy, be enthusiastic about, play
and replay. Thunemann - in keeping with the practice of I Musici
- plays a modern bassoon. There are larghi, dance movements, contrapuntal
and canon writing, tone painting, straightforward melodic expositions
that suddenly turn a corner into tableaux from the Venetian backstreets,
dreams, idylls and music from the Academia.
Tamas Benkocs has
a series on Naxos with the Nicolaus Esterházy
Sinfonia under Béla Drahos. The one we’re concerned with here,
though, gives that set a run for its money. The recording is clear,
the pacing and tempi perfect and the overall appeal higher than
you might have thought if you didn't know the repertoire. It's
worth getting to know!