By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Dec 6, 2012
“The bassoon is widely regarded as the buffoon of the wind family.” So says “The Musical Companion,” a reference book of uncommon sobriety.
A friend is less restrained. “Bassoons sound… flatulent,” he says.
I say: Not when the composer is Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Vivaldi is the greatest composer ever to write for bassoon --- but then he’s almost the only one. Sophisticated listeners may think of the bassoon as the wind instrument’s answer to the cello. Or, in the hands of a gifted player, as a deeper-toned French horn. the thing is, there’s not much opportunity to discover that --- few labels can afford to release such esoteric fare.
Vivaldi wrote 39 pieces for bassoon and strings, and they’re far from esoteric. No surprise. He loved the instrument, and brought to these works the same genius as he did to his choral masterpiece, the Gloria, and his Sacred Music. [To buy the CD of the Vivaldi Bassoon Concertos from Amazon, click here.]
Why so many pieces? Because he could. Vivaldi some 400 concertos; he said --- accurately --- that he could compose faster than a copyist could scribble the notes. Bach went to school on him. He was immensely. And then he was forgotten for centuries. Hard to believe, considering how often we are subjected to the Four Seasons.
Consider these lovely bassoon concertos as an almost secret thrill. As a gift that the recipient couldn't possibly already own. And as music you will hear with satisfaction again and again.