> Mozart-Haydn-Stamitz-Weber [AT]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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W.A. MOZART (1756-1791)
Bassoon Concerto in B flat K191 [18.25]
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)

Concertino for Bassoon in B flat Perger 52/5 [7.18]
Karl STAMITZ (1741-1801)

Bassoon Concerto in F [17.03]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Andante e Rondo Ungarese Op.35 [10.57]
Bassoon Concerto in F Op.75 [18.02]
Lawrence Perkins (bassoon)
Manchester Camerata
Douglas Boyd
Rec. RNCM, Manchester, 11-12 April 2001
HYPERION CDA67288 [71.54]


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Sophisticated music lovers have long considered the bassoon the king of instruments, but less enlightened members of the musical public have been disappointingly slow to praise it as they should. They would do well to listen to this lovely disc. There is a touch of the evangelist about Perkins, and I can testify to the enthusiasm he brings to his recitals, teaching and recordings. He has also written the gently informative sleeve notes for this disc.

One of the joys of the bassoon is the huge variety in the sound of individual bassoonists, much more than most instruments. On disc they range from the reedy Valeri Popov to the plummy Klaus Thunemann. Perkins lies, very much to my taste, towards the reedier end of this spectrum.

The Mozart Concerto, by far the best known solo bassoon work, is the Trojan horse by which the uninitiated will be tempted to this disc. One of the young Mozart’s most substantial works, it has a gregarious opening movement and a sublime, singing slow movement. It receives a lovely performance here, technically crisp and tastefully done. It is beyond reproach in matters of fact, so any observations are purely of personal taste. I found the fluctuations in tempo in the first movement, especially during the passage work, slightly fussy, and the second movement could perhaps felt a little more operatic – at its most glorious this movement feels only one step from a tantrum or a breakdown. Bassoonists are not naturally demonstrative, but I feel Perkins could have been slightly more of a diva. Tasteful as this version is, I shall probably stick to my favourites by Popov (Chandos) and Maurice Allard (DG – nla).

The real gems of this disc are the rarities. Despite the slight nature of Haydn’s little brother’s Concertino, Perkins lavishes his full attention on it, and it shines. Better still is the performance of the concerto by Karl Stamitz, one of the family that developed the orchestra in Mannheim that so impressed Mozart. His is an excellent early classical concerto, full of the expression and drama of which the Mannheim school were so fond. Perkins brings much gusto to the piece, laying into the articulated passages whenever they occur. This is a stylish performance of a rare concerto, which will hopefully bring this enjoyable work to a new audience.

The disc finishes with two more bassoon stalwarts, Weber’s Concerto and Hungarian Andante & Rondo. Perkins has researched the editions thoroughly, compiling a new Urtext in the process. The playing is equally polished, although I feel that Perkins doesn’t let rip as much as he could at the end of the Rondo. Weber, like Mozart, was a composer of the theatre as much as anything, and this is a bravura showpiece after all. The Concerto is similarly played, full of taste, each episode getting the appropriate treatment: lyrical where it should be and honking when called for.

The playing of the Manchester Camerata (on modern instruments) is excellent throughout. From the opening high horns in the Mozart to the trumpet flourish at the end of the Weber, everything is polished and stylish in the best historically informed way. They and their oboist conductor support their principal bassoonist with such care and attention that it is fair to call this a labour of love all round. Enjoy.

A labour of love that brings rare and better known bassoon works to make a most enjoyable showpiece for this gorgeous instrument.

Aidan Twomey

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