The Galant Bassoon

Tony Way
The Age 'Green Guide' (Australia)

Voltaire once wrote: ‘Being galant in general means seeking to please.’ By the 18th century, ‘easy listening’ music for the emerging middle classes had become big business for composers. Lightly accompanied sonatas with charming melodies embodied the galant style. These were often scored flexibly so they could be played whatever instrument was available in the home. In this generous selection of six sonatas (three by Telemann, two by J. S. Bach and one by C. P. E. Bach) only one was originally scored for bassoon. No matter, for they are all played convincingly by Matthew Wilkie, the principal bassoon of the Sydney Symphony, ably accompanied by Neal Peres Da Costa and Kees Boersma. (Using a bass rather than a cello is unusual but plausible.) Warmth and clarity are appealing hallmarks of Wilkie’s tone, whether in the technically demanding faster movements or in the languorous and sensitively performed slower sections. Far from being the ‘clown of the orchestra’, here the bassoon is suave, expressive and very pleasing indeed.