Melba Recordings

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The Galant Bassoon

21/08/2009
Audiophile Audition (US)
John Sunier

This is an elegant album, with the usual Melba touches in packaging that make it a cut above most discs. There are notes in English, French and German and full details on all six sonatas, including designations of each of the three or four movements and timings for each as well as totals.  Only one of the sonatas - the F minor of Telemann - was actually intended for the bassoon, but as we know, music of this period was often not identified with a specific instrument.  People at the time simply used whatever instruments were around.  Some of these sonatas were normally played with flutes, recorders, viola da gamba or violin. The continuo part was usually harpsichord and cello or gamba, but it seems more appropriate to the lower register of the bassoon to have a double bass involved here.

While the two sonatas by J.S. Bach stand out from the others for their clarity and sublime perfection, all six are a delight and beautifully played by all three performers. The bassoon is one of those instruments given a usually small and limited part in the orchestra, yet it is capable of a wide range of expression.  The sonatas’ movements generally alternate between slow and fast, and except for the eight-minute Andante which opens Bach’s Sonata in E minor, all are quite brief - some just a bit over a minute length.

Melba’s surround sonics are a gem, with the three instruments clearly separated spatially on the soundstage but not so much as to destroy the musical sense.