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Georg Wenzel RITTER (1744-1808)
Six Quartets for Bassoon and Strings Op.1 (c.1779)
Paolo Carlini (bassoon)
I Virtuosi Italiani
rec. Sala Maffeiana del Teatro Filarmonico, Verona, April 2006  
NAXOS 8.570500 [59:07]

Georg Wenzel Ritter was a bassoonist, whose father played in the famous Mannheim orchestra. By the time he was fifteen so was Georg. Later he followed King Friedrich Wilhelm II to Munich where he remained until his death in 1808. Ritter was greatly admired; Mozart intended the bassoon part in the Sinfonia concertante K297b for Ritter as indeed he did the obbligato parts in Idomeneo, and they met in Paris and Munich.
Ritter was a composer as well as an executant. He wrote two bassoon concertos and the Op.1 Quartets recorded here. They were written around 1779 and are cast in two movements – generally an Allegro followed by a Rondeau or Minuetto. They show the expected finesse of a composer-practitioner; range, colour, breath control, balance. They’re well written, pleasing, elegantly crafted, and often enjoyable works.
He gives the violin some expected concertante roles throughout the set and in that respect he exercises democratic distribution of melodic interest between the violin and the bassoon. For the main part the viola and cello have dramatically subservient roles. The bassoon runs in the Allegro of No.1 sounds not unadjacent to the solo violin runs in Mozart’s violin concertos – the ethos is not dissimilar. The Rondeau finale of this quartet is buoyant and bubbling if rather conventional.
The Second Quartet has a more stately and refined profile albeit one fizzing with lots of figuration. There are some fine exchanges between bassoon and violin though this time the former claims the greatest share of interest. Ritter gives the second melody to the violin in the Third Quartet before the bassoon returns for some loquacious drollery. Its Rondeau finale is perhaps the best balanced of the finales with well contrasted and a relaxed pattern of voice distribution. The Rondeau Gratioso of the Fourth Quartet is the one with the greatest amount of sheer charm, finely evinced in this performance.
This disc sheds some interesting light on a Mozartian protagonist, one whose compositional achievements, whilst modest, also manage to enrich the repertoire of bassoon chamber music. The performances are good, the recording equally so. Not essential but certainly unusual fare.
Jonathan Woolf


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