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AVAILABILITY Michael Sweeney website

Mozart and Well Beyond
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Bassoon Concerto K191 (1774) [17.50]
Marjan MOZETICH (b.1948)
Concerto for Bassoon and Strings with Marimba (2003) [7.22]
Rodney SHARMAN (b.1958)
At Dusk for solo bassoon, strings and harp (2003) [7.22]
Michael WELSH (b.1954)
Serenade for solo bassoon, strings and harp (2003) [25.06]
Michael Sweeney (bassoon), Graham Hargrove (marimba), Erica Goodman (harp)
The Seiler Strings and their guests/Mayumi Seiler
rec. Glen Gould Studio, Toronto, 13-15 June 2003
AFICONDO A034401 [57:40]

As a professional bassoonist I am much impressed by this fine CD. Michael Sweeney is principal bassoonist in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and records works for solo bassoon in his spare time. The Mozart Concerto is undoubtedly the highlight of this album. However the ‘Beyond’ stage is well represented by three contemporary works by Canadian artists. These works give Sweeney a chance to shine, with his fine mastery, musicianship and technique, on an instrument which is very difficult to master.
The Mozart bassoon concerto was written in 1774 and is the major work of the bassoon repertoire. It is an early work and one of Mozart’s first instrumental concertos. The first movement – Allegro – is in standard sonata form. Here Sweeney displays his fine technique by adding embellishments. Would Mozart have approved? I don’t know. However they work very well here. Sweeney often plays phrases an octave higher than written. This shows off his fine technique in the upper register which is renowned for its difficulty in fingering. Sweeney’s articulation is also superb in the very difficult tongued passages. The cadenza is particularly well executed. Although less technically demanding, the second movement – Andante ma Adagio – offers a good example of fine lyrical playing by Sweeney. The theme of this movement later featured in the Countesses aria ‘Porgi, Amor’ in the opera Marriage of Figaro. The last movement is a Minuet. This one would be difficult to dance to and can be described as a ‘concert’ minuet. This is a very enjoyable recording by Sweeney and one of the best I have heard for a long while.
Marjan Mozetich is a contemporary Canadian composer as are Rodney Sharman and Michael Welsh. Mozetich’s Concerto for bassoon, string orchestra and marimba was premiered by Sweeney and the Seiler Strings as part of the Via Salzburg series at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto on 6 June 2003. It is a virtuosic romantic post-modern work which was composed between a close collaboration between the composer and Sweeney. The music is beautiful, exploring the lower register of the bassoon which is very difficult to play quietly. Mozetich was particularly inspired by the bassoon concertos of Vivaldi and uses the marimba in place of the harpsichord continuo. However there are supreme high note passages and a touch of Minimalism towards the end. This adds enjoyment to the whole piece which rightly deserves to become a standard of the bassoon repertoire.
Rodney Sharman’s ‘At Dusk’ began life as the first movement of his large scale work for voices and orchestra ‘Love, Beauty and Desire’. Sweeney himself commissioned this arrangement for solo bassoon, harp, timpani and strings. Composed in a Modernist idiom ‘At Dusk’ explores the atonal world of the bassoon with its huge range and warm, dark, plaintive soul. Although beautifully played by Sweeney it is probably the least appealing track on the CD.
The final work on the album is Michael Welsh’s ‘Serenade’. This piece draws on various forms of the Serenade throughout the centuries. Welsh again displays a great knowledge of the various tonal possibilities of the bassoon. Captivating and haunting throughout, displaying fine technique and mastery, with exquisite tonal colours. I can’t stop listening to this track which is enhanced by some gorgeous harp playing by Erica Goodman.
This CD is a must for all bassoon enthusiasts. Superb playing throughout and a fine rendition of the Mozart concerto. How wonderful to see the bassoon being used by contemporary composers. Jazz on the bassoon does not work, but fine examples of modern playing such as this certainly do.
Lynda Baker


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