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The Wandering Bassoon

Alexander / Milledge
Release Date: 07/13/2010 
Label:  Meridian Records   Catalog #: 84582   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Guy WoolfendenCarl Maria von WeberFritz KreislerGustav Schreck,   ... 
Performer:  Meyrick AlexanderCatherine Milledge
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Even if you think that you can do without a bassoon recital disc this well varied and entertaining programme by two excellent musicians should make you think again.

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THE WANDERING BASSOON Meyrick Alexander (bn); Catherine Milledge (pn) MERIDIAN 84582 (66:53)


MOZART Sonata in B?. WOOLFENDEN Read more class="ARIAL12b">Concerto. SCHRECK Sonata, op. 9. WEBER Andante and Hungarian Rondo. KREISLER Liebefreud. Schön Rosmarin


Meyrick Alexander is the principal bassoonist of the Philharmonia Orchestra, a position he has held since 1980, and also plays period bassoon in the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Birmingham Conservatory also enjoy his teaching services. This is a well-played, well-balanced program of double-reed provenance that is sure to please any bassoonist and almost all general music lovers.


The Mozart here is of course not a real bassoon sonata (he didn’t write one) but instead an arrangement of the composer’s Sonata for Bassoon and Cello. I like it, with the caveat that the original is better. Sometimes the piano accompaniment sounds not quite right to me, though it is difficult to pinpoint why—maybe just over-familiarity with the original. Guy Woolfenden has written many compositions for wind orchestra, and even four ballets, and composed this concerto for Alexander in 1999. It takes its inspiration from the North, eminently redolent of the music of Carl Nielsen with a touch of Sibelius, an excellent way to spend 19 minutes.


Leipzig Conservatory graduate and 10th successor to Bach in the post of Cantor of the Thomaschor, Gustav Schreck (1849–1918) penned his sonata around 1880, a very lyrical work of intense melodic conformance. The Weber is well known, my favorite version being the one by Bernard Garfield with Philly and Ormandy. I think it loses something in the piano reduction even though it is the composer’s own. Finally the Kreisler pieces, the famous Liebefreud sounding completely anti-Viennese and stoically dry despite being played very well—it just doesn’t work like this. Schön Rosmarin fares better, but only by a hair.


So we have a fine recital in excellent sound—Meridian knows how to record a bassoon—that is sure to please many. I should add that Catherine Milledge’s quicksilver pianism adds to the attraction of this recital.


FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter


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Here is just the kind of disc I welcome most. Excellent performers that I have not encountered before, an interesting choice of music, including works well off the beaten track and those that are more familiar, a good, clear, recording, and helpful notes.
 
To fill out these headings - Meyrick Alexander has been principal bassoon of the Philharmonia Orchestra since 1980. Although he also plays period instruments in other orchestras as far as I am aware does not do so here. Catherine Milledge is a Welsh pianist who has won many prizes as an accompanist. Both players are worth hearing both individually and as a duo. The recording does tend to favour the bassoon but not to excess.
 
The disc opens with the Mozart Sonata. It is usually described as being for bassoon and cello but the version published in that form after the composer’s death is itself an arrangement of a Sonata for bassoon and keyboard that Mozart wrote for Baron Durnitz for whom he had also written the Bassoon Concerto. What we hear on this disc is a very convincing attempt by William Waterhouse to recreate the original work. It is hardly his fault that he cannot make it more interesting musically than it is in its cello form, but it remains a pleasant minor piece worth an occasional hearing. These performers make the best case possible for it with impeccable and stylish phrasing.
 
The piano part of the Concerto by Guy Woolfenden is also a transcription, but in this case it is the composer’s own reduction of the original orchestral version. It sounds convincing in itself and certainly the Concerto, in three succinct movements, is worth hearing in any form. The first movement is almost obsessive in character, the second more an English rhapsody and the last essentially bracing. As the composer points out, there is some debt to Nielsen and Sibelius but it has a character all of its own and it is good to have it recorded, albeit without the original orchestral parts – perhaps this disc will encourage a recording of that version, preferably again with Meyrick Alexander for whom it was written.
 
The Sonata by Gustave Schreck is another novelty, at least to me. The composer was Cantor at the Thomaschor in Leipzig, but the main influence here is Brahms more than Bach. It can hardly claim much originality but it is an essentially companionable work which deserves its place here. The other works are more familiar, the Weber arranged from the viola original by the composer and the Kreisler arranged by Meyrick Alexander. Once again the latter’s delightful tone and phrasing makes the most of all of these pieces.
 
Even if you think that you can do without a bassoon recital disc this well varied and entertaining programme by two excellent musicians should make you think again.  

-- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Bassoon Concerto by Guy Woolfenden
Performer:  Meyrick Alexander (Bassoon), Catherine Milledge (Piano)
Venue:  Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Lond 
Length: 18 Minutes 30 Secs. 
2.
Andante and Rondo Ungarese for Bassoon and Orchestra in C minor, J 158/Op. 35 by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Meyrick Alexander (Bassoon), Catherine Milledge (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1809/1813; Germany 
Venue:  Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Lond 
Length: 10 Minutes 22 Secs. 
3.
Liebesfreud by Fritz Kreisler
Performer:  Catherine Milledge (Piano), Meyrick Alexander (Bassoon)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Austria 
Venue:  Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Lond 
Length: 3 Minutes 34 Secs. 
4.
Schön Rosmarin by Fritz Kreisler
Performer:  Meyrick Alexander (Bassoon), Catherine Milledge (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Austria 
Venue:  Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Lond 
Length: 2 Minutes 17 Secs. 
5.
Sonata for bassoon & piano in E flat major, Op. 9 by Gustav Schreck
Performer:  Catherine Milledge (Piano), Meyrick Alexander (Bassoon)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Lond 
Length: 15 Minutes 23 Secs. 
6.
Duo for Bassoon and Cello in B flat major, K 292 (196c) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Catherine Milledge (Piano), Meyrick Alexander (Bassoon)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1775; Munich, Germany 
Venue:  Church of St. Edward the Confessor, Lond 
Length: 16 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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