Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos Vol. 3
In his booklet-note for this third volume of bassoon concertos, Sergio Azzolini wonders what or who it was that inspired Vivaldi to compose 39 of the things, more than anyone else ever has and more than the Red Priest himself wrote for any other instrument except the violin. He does so without much hope of an answer – it is indeed a mystery – yet he seems happy enough to have such a problem; I doubt if there was ever a bassoonist who has radiated more pleasure in these pieces.
The six concertos offered here may not be ones to attract immediate attention to themselves but each reveals somewhere in it this composer’s unique personality and creative spark. The fast movements mix forward momentum with a sensitive lyricism for which the Baroque bassoon is well suited, and are full of ideas; and, needless to say, there is the usual crop of achingly beautiful slow movements, some conjuring a summer night on the Grand Canal, others early-morning mist creeping across the lagoon.
Azzolini matches this invention at every turn in his playing, ever on the look-out for what can be said with little pauses, sharp dynamic contrasts and deliciously applied crescendos and decrescendos to keep the ear gratefully ensnared. He does not necessarily do what you expect but he is always tasteful, always lyrical, always musical. He himself likens the bassoon’s role in these concertos to Harlequin, which explains a lot, for here is a player of compelling character, wit and likeability, the sort of person who can beguile you with as simple a thing as the charming little flourish which signs off RV475. I find as I get older that I fall increasingly under Vivaldi’s magic spell; it is performances like these that are the cause.