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
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.