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Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741): "Concerti per fagotto IV"

Sergio Azzolini, bassoon
L'Onda Armonica

rec: April 2014, Soresina (CR), Santuario della Beata Vergine di Ariadello
Naďve - OP 30551 (© 2015) (68'40")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/I
Cover & track-list

Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (RV 469); Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in C (RV 473); Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in F (RV 491); Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in G (RV 492); Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in a minor (RV 498); Concerto for bassoon, strings and bc in a minor (RV 500)

Helena Kornfeld Zemanová, Judith Huber, Stefano Rossi, Marketa Knittlová, Jana Chtylová, Petra Scevková, Esther Crazzolara, Amie Weiss, violin; Gianni Maraldi, Katharina Egger, viola; Francesco Galligioni, Ilze Grudule, cello; Nicola Barbieri, double bass; Jan Cizmár, lute, theorbo, calichon, guitar; Francesco Saverio Pedrini, harpsichord, organ

Bassoonists of our time have not many solo concertos to choose from. I am not familiar with the repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it seems unlikely that many concertos were written during those two centuries. That certainly is true of the 18th century. Antonio Vivaldi was by far the most prolific composer of bassoon concertos, writing 39; his German colleague Christoph Graupner composed four. The latter were inspired by a virtuoso on the instrument who entered the court orchestra of Darmstadt where Graupner was Kapellmeister. In the case of Vivaldi's concertos we don't know for whom they were written.

Whereas he composed some of his cello concertos for aristocratic amateurs it seems likely that the bassoon concertos were intended for professional players. It is unlikely that there were many amateurs who played this instrument. Some may have been written for the girls of the Ospedale della Pietŕ in Venice but there is no concrete information about the playing of the bassoon in this institution. Sergio Azzolini, in his liner-notes, suggests that some of the school's oboists may also have been able to play the bassoon. He also mentions two professionals to whom Vivaldi was in contact, one of them a member of the orchestra of Count Morzin in Prague, to whom Vivaldi dedicated his Four Seasons concertos. It is notable that several other members of the count's orchestra also composed bassoon concertos, which show Vivaldi's influence.

The six concertos included here have an identical texture: three movements (fast - slow - fast) in ritornello form. The strings are involved in all movements, except the largo from the Concerto in C (RV 469) which is for bassoon and basso continuo only. The other Concerto in C (RV 473) stands out for its last movement being a minuet with variations, a rarity in Vivaldi's oeuvre. Four of Vivaldi's bassoon concertos - among them the Concerto in a minor (RV 500) - also exist as concertos for oboe. The addition per fagotto ridotto or accomodato per hautboy to these concertos indicates that the bassoon versions came first.

There is quite some variety among the concertos on this disc. The opening movement of the Concerto in C (RV 469) includes percussionistic figures and fanfare motifs. The closing movement opens with a passage in which bassoon and strings play in unison. In the largo from the Concerto in F (RV 492) Azzolini sees similarities with some of Vivaldi's sacred works, for instance the famous Magnificat (RV 600). Is this the reason that this movement opens with a short (improvised) organ solo? In this movement the strings mostly play long chords over which the bassoon weaves a web of coloratura. In the larghetto from the Concerto in a minor (RV 498) the strings also play mostly chords. This concerto is characterised by a strong amount of intimacy, largely due to the strings playing piano sempre, as the first movement requires. Azzolini sees here "the intense melancholy of a Venetian winter". This concerto indeed shows some similarity with the Winter concerto from the Four Seasons.

The Concerto in G (RV 492) has an unmistakably theatrical character. Azzolini mentions the sudden changes between major and minor keys, and to this one can add the strong dynamic contrasts. The closing allegro ends pianissimo. The last two concertos are especially notable for the expressive character of the respective slow movements. In particular the largo from the Concerto in C (RV 473) is a wonderful piece.

This is the fourth volume in a series with the complete bassoon concertos. With this disc the total of recorded concertos reaches twenty. That means that we still have three discs to go before the complete bassoon concertos are available on disc. If you have the previous three discs in your collection you certainly want to add this one and the forthcoming three. Sergio Azzolini is one of the world's most renown players of the baroque bassoon and he delivers outstanding performances here. He can play with full power in some of the fast movements, but also brings supreme lyricism to the more intimate and expressive pieces. He receives fine support from the ensemble which plays with eight violins, two violas, two cellos, double bass, various plucked instruments, harpsichord and organ. Although a line-up of eight violins is probably tenable from a historical point of view I would prefer a smaller ensemble for musical reasons. However, that seems more a matter of taste than based on historical evidence.

This disc is another splendid addition to Naďve's admirable Vivaldi project.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

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