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Peter Whelan - The Proud Bassoon -

11 February 2014
Graham Williams
5 Stars

Once thought of as the clown of the orchestra, the bassoon has been accorded new descriptive images by those writing titles for solo recordings of that venerable instrument. Melba has given us 'The Galant Bassoon' The Galant Bassoon - Matthew Wilkie, from 2L we have 'The Lyrical Bassoon The Lyrical Bassoon and now Linn give us 'The Proud Bassoon'.

The programme on this SACD is a wide ranging collection of 18th century works written for the baroque bassoon and performed by Peter Whelan, one of the leading exponents of both the historical and modern instruments and who is also currently principal bassoon with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Whelan's performances of these varied pieces are a delight, and in every way he meets the challenges presented by them. The spicy tone of his instrument is invigorating and well captured by the recording. His virtuosity and breath control, for example in the Fasch Sonata in C, is astonishing, as is the smooth lyricism of his playing of the Irish air 'Eileen Aroon' with variations (tr. 24) arranged by Matthew Dubourg who was Handel's first violinist in Dublin. Praise is also due to the excellent continuo playing from the various members of Ensemble Marsyas, the period group founded and directed by Whelan.

The recording made by Philip Hobbs in the Wigmore Hall, London (4-6 September 2012) is clear but too closely miked. This results in the soloist's intakes of breath and clattering of keys being sometimes all too audible, whilst, even in multi-channel, there seems to be precious little ambience captured from the hall acoustic.

The liner notes include full biographical details of the artists and a valuable 8-page essay by Geoffrey Burgess on both the music heard here and on the historical development of the bassoon.

These add much to the pleasure to be gained from this fine release.

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