Hyperion Records

Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K191 K186e
No composer has ever understood the qualities of individual instruments as did Mozart … with the bassoon, it is like a Sea-god speaking, and the most beautiful and elaborate fancies of Debussy, in La Mer, are not more evocative of the spray, of Neptune with his flashing trident, and of the tritons sounding their conch-shells. (Mozart by Sacheverell Sitwell (1932)

Whatever you think of Sacheverell Sitwell’s colourful description of the sound of the solo bassoon, there is undoubtedly a versatility and expressive range in the bassoon’s voice which I hope is evident in the work featured here. It is easy to forget that the composer was just eighteen years of age when he wrote this highly imaginative work in June 1774 whilst in Salzburg. There is evidence that he wrote another two concertos for the instrument but, sadly, there is no trace of them, the only other solo work to have survived being the Sonata K292 with cello accompaniment. Throughout the concerto there is a satisfying balance of humour without caricature, virtuosity without note-spinning, and a lyricism which establishes more than ever before the bassoon’s expressive qualities throughout the three-octave range available at the time. The slow movement in particular is a jewel of melodic writing, using a melody which Mozart wrote into a notebook at the age of eight, and later re-used in a modified form as ‘Porgi amor’ in Le Nozze di Figaro. The last movement is a minuet in rondo form, where the bassoon presents a playful set of variations on the main minuet theme, the latter appearing in the solo part only near the end of the movement. Throughout the concerto the orchestral writing is equally colourful, with delightful interactions between the strings and soloist, and a particularly beautiful muted accompaniment in the slow movement, all of which is further enhanced by some playful writing for the oboes and often spectacularly high B flat alto horn parts.

from notes by Laurence Perkins © 2002

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