Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in A minor, RV498 [10:41]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in A minor, RV497 [11:13]
Concerto for bassoon, strings and continuo in F major, RV489 [10:35]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Sonata for bassoon and cello in Bb major, KV 292/196c [14:05]
Camille Saint-SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Sonata for bassoon and piano in G major, op.168 [12:34]
Sergei Krasavin (bassoon)
I. Loyevsky (cello), A. Nasedkin (piano)
USSR State Symphony Orchestra & Soloists/Yuri Temirkanov
rec. 1981 (Vivaldi), 1985 (Mozart and Saint-SaŽns), venues not provided
MELODIYA MELCD1002355 [59:35]

These recordings were available on LP in the 1980s, and now appear for the first time on CD as a tribute to this very fine instrumentalist. It is is an attractive programme of five works for solo bassoon.

The Vivaldi concertos (of which there are thirty-nine) have attracted a good deal of attention recently, with a distinguished series of recordings from the Hungarian Bťla Drahos on Naxos. Krasavin’s playing is comparable in quality to that of Drahos; the drawback is that a very large complement of strings has been used for the concertos in this recording, which, in turn, has meant the bassoon being very ‘close-miked’. This is mostly not a problem, though here and there, listeners will be aware of a noisy clattering of bassoon keys. In addition, to modern ears, both the string tone and the particular balance between soloist and orchestra sounds very strange and dated, particularly in the slow movements, where the orchestral playing is laden with the wrong sort of expressiveness.

Mozart’s little sonata for bassoon and cello is a bit of a mystery. It’s the only work he composed for this combination, and it’s not known why or for whom he wrote it. But it is charming, and unmistakably Mozartian. Krasavin and his cello partner Mr. Loyevsky (no Christian name given!) play it very stylishly, though I didn’t personally like Krasavin’s decision to use the technique known as ‘double-tonguing’ for some of the rapid passages: the staccato thus produced has a rather machine-gun-like quality which sounds out of place here. The balance is perfect, and the players include all the repeats, which is to be applauded, as it gives the piece much more satisfying dimensions.

The Saint-SaŽns Sonata is a very late work, and is a genuinely lovely piece, apart perhaps from the rather perfunctory concluding Allegro Moderato. It consists of a lyrical first movement, a fiendish scherzo – fiendish in spirit, and also in technical demands upon the player, who has to negotiate a rapid concluding ascent to a pianissimo top E (top space of the treble clef). Not for the faint-hearted! Krasavin is fully equipped with the required virtuosity, and also spins an exquisitely sustained line in the molto adagio that follows – his tone here is a thing of great beauty. My only quibble was with the somewhat dry piano sound - not the fault of the pianist, Mr. Nasedkin, who plays well - but the piano tone does make it hard to savour the bassoon tone in many places, particularly at climactic points in the first movement. It is a gorgeous sonata, though, and my recommendation would be to try to find the old Kim Walker recording (‘The Bel Canto Bassoon’ on Regent).

So I’m not sure how much this issue will appeal to the ‘general listener’, whatever that may be. Bassoonists and wind players will, however, find it well worth a listen. Sergei Krasavin is a fine musician, his tone is superbly chiselled, and his technique hugely impressive.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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