Melba Recordings

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The Galant Bassoon

01/01/2010
Gramophone (UK)
Lindsay Kemp

Stylish and sweetly singing bassoon-playing in beguiling Baroque repertoire.

You would, I suspect, either have to want specifically to hear Matthew Wilkie in action, or to have what could only be described as an unconventional wish to hear the bassoon perform sonatas not originally written for it, to yearn for this CD from afar. Both ambitions are well rewarded, however, for this is a recital of high-quality music performed with considerable expertise and musicality. Those are the most important things, of course, and with a sonata from Telemann’s Der Getreue Musik-Meister being the only piece here originally written for bassoon (though with an option for recorder) it scarcely matters either whether that bassoon is a Baroque one or a modern one. In this case it is modern (Wilkie is principal bassoon of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra), and while one may sometimes miss the slightly yielding quality and flexibility shown by all Baroque wind instruments, the playing of it is sympathetic and stylish, enhanced by a sweetly singing high register. Thus the two Bach Flute Sonatas remain the great works they are, a pair of Telemann pieces exchange the veiled, mellow beauty they would have had in their original guise as viola da gamba sonatas for new clarity and focus, and CPE Bach’s Solo Flute Sonata retains its beauty and depth. Wilkie’s continuo team are alert and precise, the selection of a double bass instead of a cello helping to throw his sound into relief. The booklet essay is thoughtful and informed, though I would like to ask the writer who are the “authenticity aficionados who might scoff” at the very idea arrangements, of whom he speaks? I for one have never met one.