Bassoon Concertos (Jaako Luoma)

Jaako Luoma (bassoon); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Janne Nisonen (Ondine)

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Bassoon Concertos
Works by Mozart, Winter, Hummel and Rossini
Jaako Luoma (bassoon); Tapiola Sinfonietta/Janne Nisonen
Ondine ODE 1324-2   68:51 mins

Whatever happened to the bassoon as a solo instrument? Its usefulness in blending seamlessly with other orchestral members around it, like a vital ingredient in a recipe, seems to have led composers to overlook its likeable possibilities as a concerto soloist, at least since the early 19th century and the growing size of the Romantic orchestra. All four works recorded here, apart from Rossini’s (whose authorship is disputed), date from the Beethoven era. Even a player of Jaakko Luoma’s masterful expertise can’t disguise that the bassoon’s range of tone and volume is limited within each of its various registers. But it also has a capacity for colourful expressive line which gives it genuine options as a solo instrument, plus remarkable agility when required. Luoma’s playing excels in both departments.

Sure enough, Hummel’s agreeable but not very characterful concerto is instantly trumped by Mozart’s, where the solo writing is so much more inventive; and while the orchestral accompaniments of both works use only oboes and horns besides strings, Mozart’s deployment of this wind contingent is an imaginative class apart. Peter von Winter’s Bassoon Concertino (three sections squeezed into a single movement) explores early Romantic territory in a more turbulent C minor, while the concerto attributed to Rossini certainly has the Italian master’s engaging charm. Led by Janne Nisonen, the Tapiola Sinfonietta opts for string tone that’s classically lean in a way that’s convincing rather than tendentious, underpinning Luoma’s artistry with springy support.

Malcolm Hayes