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Bach on the Bassoon

Bram van Sambeek (bassoon) (BIS)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

JS Bach
Partita No. 2; French Suite No. 5; Flute Partita; Cello Suite No. 1 (arr. bassoon)
Bram van Sambeek (bassoon)
BIS BIS-2637 (CD/SACD)   67:46 mins


The multifarious world of Bach transcriptions is cause for rejoicing. The composer himself was an avid transcriber of his own works and Bram van Sambeek follows in this distinguished line. A celebrated classical musician and teacher, Sambeek also performs and records contemporary jazz and rock. This collection of arrangements for bassoon of keyboard, cello and flute suites is bold, occasionally challenging, but almost always engaging.

Inevitably there are problems in crafting versions for a solo instrument from keyboard works as richly textured as the C minor Partita for harpsichord and the Fifth French Suite. For the Partita, Sambeek creates a version for eight bassoons, each part played by him in a simultaneous recording. The opening of the ‘Sinfonia’ with all eight bassoons in ‘full fig’ has an appropriate grandeur and the faster sections have a captivatingly stylish ‘unequal’ quality, but notwithstanding the ingenuity of spread chords in the ‘Courante’ the ensemble isn’t always convincing.

The G major French Suite is played entirely solo and has both elegance and a strong sense of forward motion. In the famous prelude of Cello Suite No. 1 Sambeek’s careful placing of key points of punctuation is continuously engaging, and the dance movements are energised by ear-catching phrasing and a sense of humour. With the best will in the world, however, and notwithstanding Sambeek’s generous variety of tone, continuous listening is a touch enervating. Bassoon aficionados will need no encouragement, others may want to enjoy this anthology in small doses.


Jan Smaczny