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Bassoon Trios
François DEVIENNE (1759-1803)
Sonata in C Major for Flute and Bassoon obbligato [13’32]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Trio in F Major for Flute, Bassoon and Piano [12:58]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Trio for Piano, Flute and Bassoon in G Major, WoO 37 [26:00]
Pietro MORLACCHI (1828-1868)/Antonio TORRIANI (1829-1911)
Duetto concertato for flute, bassoon and piano on motifs by Maestro Verdi [15’58]
Massimo Data (bassoon)
Mario Carbotti (flute)
Piero Barbareschi (piano)
rec. June 2014, Circolo Ufficiali M.M. “Vittorio Veneto”, La Spezia, Italy

Brilliant Classics gives a somewhat misleading title “Bassoon Trios” for their new release of music for flute, bassoon and piano. In all the pieces, flute and bassoon are on equal footing. I suppose there are fewer recordings of trios featuring the bassoon than those featuring the flute, and Brilliant Classics want to highlight the scarcity value of this album.

François Devienne was a virtuosic flutist and bassoonist. His compositions are of high enough quality that one of his bassoon concerti was for a long time mis-attributed to Mozart. Given the title of the piece given on the album, I was surprised to hear the piano playing with flute and bassoon. I checked the score and found that in fact the piece was part of a collection of pieces for keyboard, and titled Sonate avec Flute et Basson obbligato, meaning a keyboard sonata with obbligato flute and bassoon. The work is in two fast movements: Allegro moderato and Rondeau.

Gaetano Donizetti, though known primarily as an extremely prolific operatic composer, also wrote a number of instrumental works. His Trio in F for flute, bassoon and piano is in two movements: a Larghetto followed by an Allegro. This trio has an operatic flavour but none of the brilliance of Donizetti’s best works. The Larghetto is boring, and only partially rescued by the somewhat livelier finale.

The Trio for piano, flute and bassoon by Beethoven is an early work. The opening movement, at eleven-and-a -half minutes, is expansive. The Adagio features some very high writing for the bassoon, and the work closes with a theme and variation lasting almost 10 minutes.

In nineteenth century Italy, the land of opera, many performer-composers wrote virtuosic fantasies based on popular operatic themes. Flutist Pietro Marlacchi and bassoonist Antonio Torriani were fellow students at conservatory when they co-wrote the Duetto concertato for flute, bassoon with piano accompaniment on motifs by Mo Verdi. Torriani went on to become a top bassoonist in Italy, recognized as such by none other than Verdi. The Duetto concertato was written in around 1850, before the start of Verdi’s middle period, which explains why I do not recognize any of the themes. The lack of popular big tunes makes this work less attractive than it otherwise might be.

The performance on this album is passable. The playing comes off four-square and workman-like. A singing quality, essential in this repertoire, is sorely missing in the performance. There is no drama in the playing of the Verdi potpourri. Bassoonist Massimo Data appears to have some intonation issues in the tenor register, particularly the tenor F, a notorious note on the German-system bassoon.

The Beethoven Trio has been recorded quite a few times before. I own recordings by Jean-Pierre Rampal/Paul Hongne/Robert Veyron-Lacrois on Vox and Peter-Lukas Graf/Klaus Thunemann/Bruno Giuranna on Claves, both of which are far superior to the Mario Carbotta/Massimo Data/Piero Barbareschi performance here. There are a couple of recordings of the Donizetti Trio and the Verdi Duetto concertato, though I have not heard those performances.

Listeners who do not already own these works on disc and eager to explore the repertoire may consider acquiring this disc at Brilliant Classics’ budget price. Those seeking top class performances may want to explore the alternatives I have provided above.

Wai Kit Leung



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