Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Bassoon Concerto in Bb major K191 [18:39]; Gioachino ROSSINI (1892-1868) (attrib) Bassoon Concerto [17:40]; Conradin KREUTZER (1780-1849) Fantasie for Bassoon and Orchestra [9:47]; Bernhard Henrik CRUSELL (1775-1838) Bassoon Concertino in B flat major [17:10]
Karen Geoghegan (bassoon)
BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 4 November 2009, 20 January 2010
CHANDOS CHAN 10613 [63:43]
Mozart’s sole bassoon concerto dates from 1774. As the booklet points out, every bassoonist plays it at some time, and most seem to harbour an ambition to record it. I have come to regard the results as a very special test of a player’s musicianship. A technically proficient but dull performance will leave you wondering why you bothered to spend a quarter of an hour with such tedious music, whereas in the hands of a player with real imagination and energy it can be a most exhilarating experience. Fortunately, and no surprise to those who have enjoyed her earlier discs for Chandos, this performance falls resoundingly into the latter category. Right from the soloist’s first entry the listener is engaged by Karen Geoghegan’s ripe tone, crisp articulation, imaginative phrasing, total technical control and above all her ability to communicate directly. The variety of tone that she gets from the instrument is one of her chief assets, together with an ability to surprise the listener by minute variations of phrasing. The slow movement, with its muted upper strings and subtle textures is an especial delight, and the Rondo Minuet finale has just the rhythmic lift it needs to keep it alive. The only criticism I would venture is the length of the cadenzas in the first two movements, but she is certainly not alone in this and they are of greater interest than those used by many of those of her rivals that I have heard. The very positive contribution of the BBC Philharmonic under Gianandrea Noseda is a major part of the success of this performance and their efforts are helped in turn by the transparent recording. Perhaps the soloist is a shade too forward for my liking, but I soon adjusted to it.
Similar remarks could be made about the performance of the Crusell Concertino, his last work in this form. The Kreutzer Fantasie falls into three sections, ending with a Polacca. In style, form and length it is very similar to Weber’s Clarinet Concertino, and whilst not as memorable as that work it is enjoyable and is given a first class performance here.
The remaining work is one I had not heard before – the “Rossini” Concerto. I understand that this was only discovered in the 1990s and that some Rossini scholars doubt that he wrote it. Whilst I have not read their reasoning for that view, I must say that I find it hard to believe that he had a hand in it. The booklet refers to its “veritably Rossinian wit” but each time I listened to it I missed it, although I certainly acknowledge that it does “display various kinds of bravura agility” with playing of a breathtakingly confident style. I am glad to have heard it but doubt if I will wish to return to it often.
This disc offers four works for bassoon and orchestra from the late 18th and early 19th centuries in superb performances well recorded and presented. Only one is a real masterpiece, two are pleasant if second rate, and one is wholly forgettable. If the programme appeals to you there is much to enjoy here, and wind players in particular should listen to this and marvel at playing of such eloquence.

John Sheppard
Much to enjoy here … listen to this and marvel at playing of such eloquence.