Chamber Works for Bassoon
In 1969 Gordon Jacob wrote: ''The bassoon is now well established as a serious and noble instrument It has outlived its reputation as a vehicle mainiy of musical humour...''. The first statement might have been made 200 years before then, by which time the bassoon had already acquired a substantial repertory of works in which it was taken perfectly seriously, any jokes made by Vivaldi, for instance, were at the expense of the player, who was expected to perform feats of incredible dexterity with a straight face, like demanding fluent acrobatics from a fat man. The identification with pawky, Falstaffian humour, rarely without pathetic overtones, seems to have developed later. Neither Danzi (1763–1826) nor Reicha (1770–1836), both of whom were particularly fond of woodwind instruments, took the bassoon less than seriously but, like Vivaldi, both were alert to its dualities—its distinct bass and tenor registers, and its ability to act either a leading or a subsidiary role. If neither Danzi nor Reicha glowed with genius they are both to be credited with the ability to write amiable, tuneful and warm-hearted music that is skilfully crafted—in short, most enjoyable to listen to, each offers a minuet as third movement but, whilst Danzi's moves briskly, Reicha's (Allegro arioso) is an undeclared scherzo.
Much of the foregoing comment applies equally to Gordon Jacob, whose entire work is shorter than either the first or fourth movement of Reicha's. Brevity is the name of its game: each movement sets its mood (two are solemn), says its piece and refuses to outstay its welcome, its messages are the same as those of the earlier works where the bassoon is concerned, but its language, though tonal, is less comforting. The final Rondo evokes shades of the ''Foxtrot'' from Walton's Facade. The agile, velvet-toned Smith and his bow-wielding colleagues play stylishly, seductively and with admirable rapport in this splendidly recorded and winsome programme of (I believe) otherwise unrecorded music for pleasure.'