Fantasies For Bassoon
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sonata, D.821 ‘Arpeggione’ [24:29]
Serge RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Vocalise [6:29]
Gustav SCHRECK (1849-1918)
Sonata, Opus 9 [15:50]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Adagio [5:53]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Salut d’Amour, Opus 12 [2:56]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasiestücke, Opus 73 [10:31]
Karen Geoghegan (bassoon), Philip Edward Fisher (piano)
rec. 11-12 April 2011, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10703 [66:45]

Young bassoon virtuoso Karen Geoghegan first came to public attention through the BBC’s Classical Star programme. At the time still a student at the Royal Academy of Music, she has since performed at various well-known venues, including the Wigmore Hall and as part of the BBC Proms.

This disc is the latest in a series of recordings for Chandos, and comprises a collection of works which (apart from the Schreck) were not originally composed for bassoon. Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata was written for the arpeggione, a now obsolete type of bowed guitar. It is now heard on a variety of instruments, including viola, cello and flute. The version here for bassoon works well, with the instrument’s tenor pitch range well suited to the tessitura of the music. This is an enjoyable rendition, with a lovely singing tone on the bassoon and well phrased lines, especially in the slow movement, which is beautifully played. The piano playing by Philip Edward Fisher is warm, sensitive and beautifully executed. Overall, I feel the balance favours the piano slightly over the bassoon, and the mic positioning on the bassoon allows breaths and key noises to be clearly audible. While this is undoubtedly part of the nature of wind instrument performance and adds a sense of naturalness to the recording, I found some of the quickly snatched breaths a little distracting.

Gustav Schreck’s op. 9 bassoon Sonata was composed in around 1880. Schreck taught in Finland and Leipzig and held the well-respected post of Cantor at St Thomas’ Church. The three movement sonata has charm and some enjoyable harmonic progressions. This lyrical work has some powerful piano writing which occasionally overtook the bassoon in terms of balance, but this is a dynamic and committed performance. Schreck’s compositional style has hints of Brahms, with chromatic twists and vocal-style melodic lines. The final movement has a sense of bravura and flair, and some challenging writing for both instruments.

Schumann’s Fantaisiestücke were written for clarinet and later arranged for violin and cello. The three interlocking pieces share melodic material and become gradually faster as the music progresses. The pieces work well on the bassoon, and there is a sense of organic development throughout this performance.

In addition to the major works, some shorter pieces are included here too. Rachmaninov’s famous Vocalise is extremely well suited to the bassoon, and the playing here is stunning from both performers. Spohr’s Adagio was originally written for violin and harp but the composer also made a transcription for cello and piano. The musicianship of both players is clearly in evidence here, with some poignant tone colours and a good sense of partnership throughout. Elgar’s Salut d’Amour is an enjoyable and somewhat lighter addition which is warm and lyrical throughout.

Overall, this is an enjoyable disc in which Geoghegan maintains the high standards to which we have become accustomed. It is a delight to hear the bassoon in a recital role, and Geoghegan’s work demonstrates the capabilities of the instrument in a way which is constantly convincing.

Carla Rees

Geoghegan’s work demonstrates the capabilities of the instrument in a way which is constantly convincing.