Notes and Editorial Reviews
A delightful disc with some of the finest music for the bassoon.
Music-lovers who have a special liking for the bassoon are living in interesting times. A remarkable number of recordings with baroque music for bassoon have been released in recent years. Among them are concertos and sonatas by Vivaldi. There has also been a considerable number of German compositions for or with a bassoon. One of the most virtuosic and busy bassoonists is the Italian Sergio Azzolini, who is responsible for various of the recent releases. Jérémie Papasergio is also quite active in this field. Over the years he has extensively explored the history and development of the bassoon, its predecessor the dulcian, and instruments
which are more or less related to these two instruments. His art is documented in various recordings, especially for the Belgian label Ricercar.
The dulcian was frequently used in the late 16th century and during the 17th century. In the 16th century it had mainly a supporting role, especially in vocal music performed with instruments playing
colla voce. In the 17th century its main role was in the basso continuo. There were some virtuosos who played and wrote solo pieces, in particular the Spaniard Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde and the German Philipp Friedrich Böddecker. In the second half of the 17th century the instrument now known as 'baroque bassoon', was developed in France. It was incorporated in the opera orchestra by Jean-Baptiste Lully, and with the dissemination of the French style it was soon adopted elsewhere including in Germany.
The new instrument allowed greater virtuosity, for instance due to its larger range. The extension of its range upwards also increased its attraction to composers to write music for it. The result is a considerable repertoire of pieces, some of which have become quite famous. Among them is the
Sonata in f minor which Telemann included in his collection
Der getreue Music-Meister. As he mainly composed for amateurs and probably not many of them mastered the bassoon he offered the recorder as an alternative. Another frequently-performed piece is the
Quatuor in d minor from the second production of the
Musique de table. Originally scored for two transverse flutes, recorder and bc here Telemann suggests the bassoon as an alternative for the recorder. In this recording the two transverse flutes have been replaced by recorders. That is a rather odd decision: there is no need for it, and it is quite possible that Telemann wanted a contrast between the two flutes on the one hand and the recorder or bassoon on the other. It is useful to note here that sound-wise recorder and bassoon are closer to each other than to the flute.
A combination of the bassoon, either as an equal partner or in the basso continuo (
Trio sonata in a minor), with another wind instrument, was quite common. Telemann often opted for less conventional scorings. That is the case in the
Trio sonatas in F and in
B flat, in which the bassoon is partnered by the violin. The former is from a collection published in Frankfurt in 1718 and preserved in manuscript.
In addition two of Telemann's contemporaries are represented. Jan Dismas Zelenka worked at the court in Dresden, and mainly wrote religious music. He also composed some instrumental music. His six sonatas for two oboes, bassoon and bc belong to the most brilliant and technically demanding chamber music of the early 18th century in Germany. They reflect the great skills of the players of the court orchestra in Dresden. Here the
Sonata No. 3 in B flat is recorded, the only sonata from the set in which the violin is suggested as an alternative to the first oboe.
Christoph Schaffrath is relatively little-known. It is only fairly recently that some discs have been devoted to his oeuvre. He was for some years a member of Frederick the Great's chapel, but in 1741 he entered the service of Frederick's sister Anna Amalia, whose musical taste was rather conservative. The six duets for keyboard and one melody instrument follow the traditional pattern of the trio sonata. The order of movements follows the taste of the time: moderate, fast, fast.
The first movement is an andante, and Papasergio and Penson have chosen the perfect tempo here. It seems to me that the balance is a bit too much in favour of the bassoon, though; the harpsichord should have been given more prominence. The sonata by Zelenka is also very well executed. I liked in particular the opening adagio, with nice dynamic contrasts and played in a truly gestural manner. The beautifully swaying rhythm of the siciliana from Telemann's
Trio sonata in B flat is given a nice performance, and the soave from the
Trio sonata in F is elegantly played. I am less enthusiastic about the
Quatuor in d minor which could have been more lively, especially the second movement (vivace!). The closing allegro is a bit too slow.
That is about the only thing to complain about. This is a delightful disc with some of the finest music for the bassoon.
The booklet contains an interesting essay about the bassoon in the German baroque and the music on this disc. It is incomprehensible that the track-list omits all catalogue numbers. I have added them in the header.
-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Duetto for bassoon & continuo in G minor by Christoph Schaffrath
Date of Recording: 08/2010
Venue: église Notre-Dame de Centeilles
Length: 9 Minutes 2 Secs.
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