Donaufahrt - Voyage Down the Danube Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1779-1827)
Sonata in F major for horn (bassoon) and piano, op.17 [14:59] Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Andante et Rondo ongarese, op.35 [10:02] Johann Wenzel KALLIWODA (1801-1866)
Morceau de Salon for bassoon and piano, op.230 [8:49] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata in G major for violin (bassoon) and piano, K.379/373a [21:57] Franz DOPPLER (1821-1883)
Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise for flute (bassoon) and piano, op.26 [10:34]
Rie Koyama (bassoon), Clemens Müller (piano)
rec. 9-11 July 2014, Grosser Saal, Konzerthaus, Trossingen, Germany GENUIN GEN15334 [66:23]
Looking at the pictures of the performers on this disc
– a lanky guy and a petite young lady – I made the (possibly sexist)
assumption that the former was the bassoonist, the latter the pianist.
Not so. Rie Koyama is one of many fine female bassoon players to be
found around the world and Clemens Müller is her very able accompanist
for this recital.
Thinking of the bassoon as an exclusively male instrument is only one
of the misconceptions that surround this most wonderful of wind instruments.
People also often say that it has a tiny solo repertoire, but could
any instrument with 34-plus Vivaldi concertos to its name be so described?
Clearly not, though in fairness, it’s noticeable that on the current
disc, three of the five pieces have been arranged for bassoon, having
been initially written respectively for horn, violin and flute.
There is no question, however, that Rie Koyama is an exceptional musician
and an exceptional player of her instrument. The first work on the CD
illustrates this well; I had always thought of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata
as an uncharacteristically dull piece, having only heard it on the instrument
for which it was originally intended. In Koyama’s hands, it is transformed,
such is her beauty of tone, musicality of phrasing and tonal variety.
She possesses a wonderfully smooth and even tone right throughout the
wide range, and, without forcing the sound, she can produce a robust
fortissimo, and shade right down to the softest pianissimo. With her
partner relishing the Beethovenian piano part, this is a delightful
Carl Maria von Weber wrote a splendid concerto for the bassoon, and,
while this Andante and Hungarian Rondo is nowhere near the same
level, it demonstrates a similar understanding of the instrument’s character.
The minor key Andante is the best part, played by Miss Koyama with such
expressive flexibility, while the Rondo has a fast-moving coda in which
she can show off her machine-gun triple tonguing.
Bohemian composer Kalliwoda’s Morceau de Salon comes from the
same ‘stable’ as the Weber, but is possibly a rather better piece, and
again gives these musicians plenty of opportunities to show their great
mutual understanding, making an inherently fairly innocuous piece much
more interesting. The Mozart violin sonata that follows was more of
a problem for me; Koyama’s rich tone and very Romantic approach seemed
to me somehow at odds with the essentially 18th century character
of the music. It is a fine work – one of the most original of this period
of Mozart’s output – and it was a fascinating experiment to re-assign
the solo part; but to my mind it doesn’t quite work, in part
because of the rather intense vibrato that is applied, particularly
in louder passages. It nevertheless left me full of admiration for the
soloist’s skill and musicianship, particularly in the area of articulation
– that is to say the exact manner of tonguing each note and phrase.
Another recital piece concludes the work, this time an arrangement of
music by Franz Doppler, a name that flautists will know for his endless
number of compositions for solo flute and flute duet. This Hungarian
Pastoral Fantasy is probably among his better pieces; it makes a
good conclusion to the disc, because, while this work is no picnic for
a virtuoso flautist, it is an incredible challenge for a bassoonist.
Rie Koyama surmounts it superbly, producing a climactic torrent of notes,
and concluding with a resplendent top F: top line of treble clef.
It’s not in the least surprising to read that this stunning young Japanese
fagottist has been winning international music prizes for fun in recent
years — she’s just 24 — and already has a flourishing solo career. This
CD showcases her talents well; but I would now love to hear her in more
substantial repertoire – Hindemith, Saint-Saëns, Elgar - together with
her excellent accompanist. It’s so exciting to encounter a young talent
of such brilliance – can’t wait for the next instalment.