Classic Mornings

Bassooner The Better


This hasn’t happened in a while. And you know I’m going to tell you about it!

When I audition recordings for Classic Mornings, sometimes it’s a quick process. I know within moments to move on to the next track. But when that doesn’t happen, it can mean that I’m slowly being drawn into the music to the point where I lose all sense of time. Last week I spent a most pleasant hour or so making my way through a new CD of music by Vivaldi.   

I really was captivated by all of the works on the recording. That’s what hasn’t happened in a while. Start to finish, I couldn’t pull myself away from the music. What it means is that you have seven more concertos by Antonio Vivaldi that I’ll be playing for you – bassoon concertos – from the new collection (Naïve 30573). It features the Italian bassoonist Sergio Azzolini and his ensemble L’Onda Armonica, which means “The Harmonic Wave.”

I have played Vivaldi bassoon concertos with Azzolini and the group even before this new release. Their previous recording, which was Volume 4 of Vivaldi bassoon concertos, arrived at the beginning of 2016. That was the first time that Azzolini was joined by L’Onda Armonica. Previously, he recorded with an ensemble known as L’Aura Soave Cremona

In the notes to the recording, Cesare Fertonani reminds us, that with the exception of the violin, which Vivaldi played, he wrote more concertos for the bassoon than any other instrument. There are 39 of them. Nobody knows why he wrote so many. According to Fertonani, the bassoon had been primarily a bass instrument.

There’s no evidence that Vivaldi wrote any of the bassoon concertos for the girls of the Ospedale della Pietà, where he taught string instruments, directed the orchestra, and indeed composed many other works. It may be that they were intended for instrumentalists in opera or court orchestras.

Azzolini, especially in the slow movements of the concertos, is like an operatic singer whose voice just happens to sound like a bassoon. He makes you wonder whether some of the tunes originated in Vivaldi’s operas or sacred works. If they were written specifically for the concertos, did they find their way into his vocal repertoire? During the faster movements, Azzolini and company demonstrate what Fertonani suggests, namely that the concertos were written for highly skilled players and orchestras. 

The recording is another in the series known as The Vivaldi Edition, which is attempting to record some 450 works by Vivaldi, many of them unknown, which belong to the National University Library of Turin. According to Susan Orlando, artistic director of the project, the library purchased the entire private collection of autograph manuscripts. That means that they’re the original manuscripts in Vivaldi’s own handwriting. There were various owners of the collection over the years. Fortunately, the compositions that are a part of it stayed together. The project, which began in 2000, features a variety of Baroque music interpreters. A number of the recordings have made their way into the Friends of WILL Library and onto Classic Mornings.

In addition to the Vivaldi CD, we were able to acquire a recording of music by the Beethoven and Schubert contemporary: Friedrich Kuhlau (1786-1832). He was a pianist/composer, who was born in Germany. The story is told that rather than join the advancing Napoleonic army, he fled to Copenhagen. There he became a much-admired composer and piano teacher. The recording, released in 1998, features overtures by Kuhlau. The Danish Natinal Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by the Copenhagen-born Michael Schønwandt. (Chandos 0648)

I have to add that once again I suddenly became aware of something on the cover of a recording we’ve had for decades. It’s a CD of French music with English flutist William Bennett and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Steuart Bedford. (ASV 652) Recently, I learned that Bennett turned 85 back in early February. I also learned that he’s a cartoonist as well and that he’s the one who drew the picture of the happy Frenchman with a flute in hand, which is on the cover of that recording. It was intended to be his teacher: the French flutist Marcel Moyse, to whom the recording is dedicated. You can see the picture if you just search for the title: Celebration for Flute and Orchestra, and add the word “cover,”

We’re still celebrating the generous response of so many of you at the end of our fiscal year on June 30. Your contribution helped make it the most successful year for listener support in the history of Illinois Public Media! Thank you for being a part of that. And stay tuned to enjoy what you helped make possible!