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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in F RV 485 [9:48]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in B Flat RV 503 [9:17]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in E Flat RV 483 [7:13]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in A Minor RV 497 [9:12]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in C RV 473 [11:25]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in F RV 492 [8:09]
Klaus Thunemann (bassoon)
I Musici
July 1985, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. DDD
PHILIPS 416 355-2 [55:04]

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 fondamenta. 

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!  

Mark Sealey 



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Seen & Heard
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