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Niccolò PAGANINI (1782–1840)
Concertino for Horn, Bassoon and Orchestra [11:32]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Bassoon Concerto [18:21]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Capriccio for Bassoon and Orchestra [12:57]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858–1924)
Preludio sinfonico [9:47]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879–1936)
La boutique fantasque [22:40]
Patrick De Ritis (bassoon)
José Vicente Castelló (horn)
Würzburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrico Calesso
rec. live, Konzertsaal der Hochschule für Müsik, Würzburg, 11 December 2014
NAXOS 8.573382 [75:17]

This well filled CD taken from a live concert in Würzburg offers three rarities coupled with some early Puccini and the ever popular Boutique Fantasque. Bassoon aficionados will snap this disc up, offering as it does a chance to hear some virtuoso pieces played with great authority and musicality by Patrick De Ritis, principal bassoonist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Mr De Ritis also has a fine, rounded tone which suits the music admirably, especially in the higher register and during the legato passages.

The Rossini concerto is immediately tuneful and appealing and so typical of the composer. The world of the opera isn’t so far away, especially in the central Largo. The outer movements are full of good humour with tripping rhythms and gaiety, not to mention decent tunes. The Verdi Capriccio is in the form of an Air with Variations, so beloved of the brass band movement. Verdi avoids the trap of writing music that is purely virtuosic for the sake of it. The piece is tastefully written and musically satisfying. The Paganini Concertino is typical of a composer more widely admired for his violin showpieces. Here, the bassoon replaces the violin as soloist but with the instrument’s limited capability of producing the hair-raising effects that one can achieve on a violin. The combination of bassoon and horn is unusual to say the least but both are equal partners and Jose Vicente Castello matches his partner with some superb horn playing. These three pieces alone are worth seeking out for their sheer novelty value.

The Puccini Preludio sinfonico has the composer’s finger-prints all over it. It may be a student work but already you can hear the dramatic, emotional operatic style emerging. It’s thoroughly enjoyable but is overly long at around 10 minutes. Respighi’s ballet, La boutique fantasque on themes by Rossini is presented here in Sargent’s concert suite featuring eight key numbers. To be honest it’s a bit of a dud with playing that lacks sparkle. The whole thing fails to catch fire. The Tarantella is a timid affair and the Can-Can is performed with leaden boots. Treat this as filler and no more.

The playing of the Würzburg Philharmonic and the soloists is good throughout. Minor blemishes are few and far between and for a live concert the audience is admirably quiet. The recording is very good with a natural balance but limited front-to-back perspective. Go elsewhere for La boutique fantasque but the bassoon novelties are what this disc is all about. The booklet is a shambles (this has now been corrected for copies that are in retail outlets, I understand, Ed.) with two pages relating to a Franz Liszt disc by pianist Han Chen (8.573415) inserted by mistake and the track-listing information is also incorrect. This is most unlike Naxos.

John Whitmore



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