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French Bassoon Works
Gabriel GROVLEZ(1879-1944) Sicilienne et Allegro giocoso (1930) [5:59];Alexandre TANSMAN (1897 - 1986) Sonatine (1952) [7:38]; Charles KOECHLIN (1867 - 1950) Sonata Op. 71 (1918-19) [8:58]; Gabriel FAURE (1845- 1924) Pièce (c.1887) [3:05]; Roger BOUTRY (b.1922) Interférences I (1972) [9:16] Gabbier Noël GALLON (1891-1966) Récit et Allegro (1938) [5:44]; Henri DUTILLEUX (b.1916) Sarabande et Cortège  (1942) [7:41]; Marcel BITSCH (b.1921) Concertino (1948) [7:29]; Louis Marie Eugène JANCOURT (1815 – 1901) Nocturne Op 124 [4:16]; Gabriel PIERNÉ (1863 – 1937) Solo de Concert Op. 35 (1898) [5:35]; Achille-Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Minstrels, No 12 from Preludes, Book 1 (c.1910) [2:22]; The Little Shepherd, No 5 from Children’s Corner (1906-1908) [2:36]; Golliwog’s Cake-Walk, No 6 from Children’s Corner (1906-1908) [2:48]
Karen Geoghegan (bassoon); Philip Fisher (piano)
rec. 14-15 November 2008, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10521 [73:38]
Experience Classicsonline


Karen Geoghegan’s bassoon playing has a wonderfully soulful voice which is beguiling and hypnotic. In the hands of this extraordinary player, it seems as though the bassoon is ready to burst upon the classical music world as a respectable solo instrument.

This disc of French works for bassoon and piano begins with Gabriel Grovlez’s Sicilienne et Allegro Giocoso, with its smooth opening and charming Allegro. The work was composed in 1930 as a test-piece for the Paris Conservatoire, where Grovlez studied and later taught chamber music. The Sonatine by Tansman is altogether more contemporary in its feel, with rhythmic piano pulses heard behind twisting bassoon melodies. The central Aria is rich and expressive, while the final Scherzo is full of energy and played with youthful vigour.

Charles Koechlin was a pupil of Fauré’s and an avid promoter of contemporary music. His substantial Sonata for Bassoon and Piano is an enjoyable work, with a particularly enjoyable slow movement. Fauré’s Pièce is better known to me in the arrangement for flute, but was originally composed for cello in around 1887. The bassoon’s version was made in 1920 by Fernand Oubradours and suits the bassoon’s characteristic tone very well. A relatively simple piece, the music has the character of a song and demonstrates Fauré’s excellent feeling for melody.

The most contemporary work on the disc is Roger Boutry’s fantastic Interférences 1, composed in 1972. A piece full of variety, there are some biting rhythmic passages, complicated technical demands and lyrical slower moments. There are obvious influences of Stravinsky and Bartók, as well as hints of jazz and celebrated French composers such as Debussy and Poulenc. The piece builds to a frenzy at the end, and Geoghegan gives a massively convincing performance.

The Récit et Allegro by Noël Gallon broadly follows the slow-fast structure of Paris Conservatoire test-pieces. A respected teacher of solfège and counterpoint, his pupils included Duruflé, Messiaen and Dutilleux. This is a short work which covers a range of moods in a fantasy-like way.

Henri Dutilleux is one of France’s leading contemporary composers, fusing the Romantic tradition with new harmonic ideas. The Sarabande et Cortège is a relatively early work, composed in 1942 for the Paris Conservatoire. It makes excellent use of the tenor range of the bassoon, with careful scoring against the piano to ensure a good balance. The Sarabande is dark and sorrowful, while the jaunty Cortège has a confidence and somewhat care-free nature. 

Concertino by Marcel Bitsch is a single movement work, again composed as a test-piece for the Conservatoire. Somewhat like Ravel in its style, the rich harmonies in the slower sections are enjoyable. A well-paced cadenza leads into an impressive Allegro Vivace. The Nocturne (d’après John Field) by Jancourt is recorded here for the first time. A bassoonist himself, Jancourt wrote many works for the instrument, and this singing Nocturne makes use of the bassoon’s tone with a wonderful melodic line.

Two more composers are featured on this disc. Pierné’s Solo de Concert is a heavy-weight work written for the 1898 Conservatoire tests. No CD of French music would be complete without a contribution from Debussy and his music is represented through arrangements of Minstrels (from Preludes, book 1), The Little Shepherd and Golliwog’s Cake Walk (from Children’s Corner). The arrangements work well and provide a light-hearted end to the disc.

This is a disc with musical maturity, which one would not necessarily expect from a performer of Karen’s age. There is a depth of understanding in her playing which suggests that she is a considerable musical talent embarking on a career full of potential.

Carla Rees


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