“Bravura Bassoon” – Benjamin Coelho, bassoon – Crystal & “Bellissima” Italian Tunes for the Big Bassoon – Susan Nigro – Crystal

by | Oct 9, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“Bravura Bassoon” – BRANDL: Quintet in B flat; JACOB: Suite for bassoon and string quartet; HEIDEN: Serenade; VILLA-LOBOS: Corrupio, Bailado; DIRIE: Anjo Breve – Benjamin Coelho, bassoon/Maia String Quartet/Christine Rutledge, viola; Volkan Orhon, doublebass/Anthony Arnone, cond. – Crystal Records CD844:

“Bellissima”  – Italian Tunes for the Big Bassoon – Music by ROSSINI, ALBINONI, VIVALDI, NUSSIO, BESOZZI & PROCACCINI – Susan Nigro, contrabassoon/Mark Lindeblad, piano – Crystal Records CD845:

Coelho is a native of Brazil and on the faculty of the University of Iowa School of Music, my own alma mater. The Maia Quartet is also in residence at the U. of Iowa and both added string players are on the faculty at the same school. The selected works offer a variety of settings, backing the solo bassoon with string trio, quartet or quintet. The works are all melodic and span from the German composer (Brandl) writing in the early 19th century style of Haydn, to the contemporary Argentine composer Dirie, who was inspired by the work of the Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond.

My personal favorite was the tuneful four-movement suite by Gordon Jacob: Prelude, Caprice, Elegy and Rondo. The Villa-Lobos is also nice, but too short at only two minutes. Sonics and balances are top flight and the program demonstrates the ability of the bassoon to be a versatile solo instrument and not just low man in the woodwind section.

Speaking of low, you can’t get much lower in the woodwinds than the contrabassoon play by Susan Nigro in the second simultaneously-released disc. This is her fourth solo CD on the instrument, for which she has commissioned and performed many new works. The nearly five-foot-tall woodwind is about as versatile as the standard bassoon, and the eight works on this CD prove it.  A couple of them will be very familiar; a melody from the Rossini overture La Gazza Ladra, and a transcription of the compelling classic Albinoni’s Adagio in g minor – usually heard on organ and string section.  Only the works by Nussio and Procaccini were originally written for the contrabassoon, but the transcriptions of the others work very well. Nussio is an Italian-Swiss composer and was conductor of that canton’s radio orchestra for many years; he was a friend of many contemporary composers but avoided modern elements in his works. His Divertimento is a delightful piece of five short movements. The closing arrangement of the Introduction, Theme & Variations from Rossini’s Quartet No. 6 also works extremely well for contrabassoon and piano.

– John Sunier 
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