This program shows how skilful playing can bring the sombre tones of the bassoon and its music to vivid life. The prodigious Scottish novelist Alexander McCall Smith has also given the bassoon a boost. He plays bassoon in the now-famous Really Terrible Orchestra (which apparently packs major concert halls playing its really terrible music) and the fictional character Jamie of his philosophy club series of novels is a bassoonist. Melba shows the bassoon to advantage on this CD of six sonatas by J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach and G.P. Telemann, with accomplished musicians and Rob Dyball’s essay in the booklet as a guide through the music, most of which was written for other instruments and transcribed for bassoon.
Bassoonist Matthew Wilkie, who studied at Queensland Conservatorium of Music and played with Queensland Youth Orchestra before continuing his studies and career in Europe, forms a compatible partnership with Neal Peres Da Costa (harpsichord) and Kees Boersma (double bass). His effortless lyricism in the triste of Telemann’s F minor and the adagio of C. P.E. Bach’s D minor sonatas is well contrasted to livelier movements when the bassoon has a real spring in its step, as jolly and agile as any flute or whatever instrument might have been used to play these pieces at 18th century courtly or domestic musicales. Da Costa and Boersma support the soloist with a discreet yet expressive accompaniment. It is a suave outpouring of melody and sprightly configurations, with Wilkie giving a particularly eloquent reading of C.P.E. Bach’s solo sonata in D minor.