Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos
Two previous discs from Philips of Vivaldi bassoon concertos, played by Klaus Thunemann with I Musici, have been giving me constant pleasure since their respective releases five and ten years ago. Now comes a third volume bringing the wonderfully athletic Thunemann approximately halfway through Vivaldi’s substantial and musically rewarding legacy for bassoon and strings – 37 concertos in all and, without a hint of hyperbole, not a dull work among them. To an even greater extent than in the cello concertos, a mere 27 of those, Vivaldi’s distinctive individuality is in full flower in the rich invention which characterizes the tuttis of the fast movements of his bassoon concertos; and in the slow movements, as so often elsewhere, Vivaldi proves himself a poet with the most delicate of sensibilities. In all of them, he seems to have been inspired by the colour and range of the instrument itself, exploring almost every possibility available to him in the bassoon of his day and, like Rameau in France, writing especially rewardingly for it in the tenor register. Thunemann, of course, plays an instrument of present-day manufacture, in keeping with the modern string instruments of I Musici; but he makes a very beautiful sound indeed, capitalizing on the inherent virtues of up-to-date technology.
To all but the most committed Vivaldians only one of the seven concertos here may seem at all familiar. That is the atmospheric Concerto in E minor (RV484) with its undulating first movement tuttis inspired, one might suspect, by Venetian waters. Thunemann instils life into every bar of his interpretation, performing dazzling feats of athleticism apparently with the utmost of ease, while at the same time giving thought to ornamentation. Not a note is either out of tune or misplaced and, in slow movements, many of which possess beguiling lyrical charm, Thunemann reveals himself as a musician of great sensitivity. The Largo of the first concerto on the disc (RV491) is a striking example. Readers familiar with Vivaldi’s sacred vocal music will recognize its derivation in part from a passage to be found both in his Magnificat(RV610) and his Kyrie (RV587). In the present context Vivaldi imbues an already arresting harmonic pattern with a drowsy, almost dreamlike fantasy in which the bassoon writing, treated here with an affecting improvisatory freedom, ranges widely with some striking intervals against sustained, softly modulating strings. It’s a brief moment of magic.
In summary, this is an impressive continuation of the series. I eagerly await the remaining concertos played by a team who have comfortably outstripped any modern instrument competitors in the field.'