Phillip Scott
Limelight, Australia
August 2021

Here we have that rare beast, a program of bassoon music. Laurence Perkins, Principal Bassoon with the Manchester Camerata until 2017, has assembled in chronological order a century’s worth of pieces by 14 composers that utilise his instrument in various ensembles.

Some are accompanied by the piano: the delightful Introduction and Allegro of Richard Walthew (1900), the Bassoon Sonatas by Saint-Säens (1921), Hindemith (1938), and Richard Rodney Bennett (1991); Sarabande et Cortège by Henri Dutilleux (1942), and Minuet 'Grace for a Fresh Egg' by Herbert Howells (1945). (The latter was a wartime work, when eggs were scarce in England. It runs for two minutes.)

There are two excellent concertos: Elizabeth Maconchy’s Concertino for Bassoon and Strings (1952) and Andrzej Panufnik’s Concerto (1985—the longest work here). We also get unaccompanied pieces, and works for multiple bassoons by Prokofiev, William Schuman, and Granville Bantock (from the latter’s incidental music to a 1926 production of Macbeth).

The program is ideally laid out for timbral contrast. Perkins plays with sensitivity and warm tone on the woodwind instrument with the most ‘human’ voice. He is appropriately nimble in the Bantock, whose Witches’ Dance is based on the Dies Irae theme, and in another Shakespearean work, Caliban and Ariel by the English composer Alan Ridout (1974).

The Threnody and Scherzo by Arnold Bax for Bassoon and String Sextet (1936) receives a superb performance. Perkins gives Robert Thompson, the bassoonist who commissioned and first recorded the Panufnik concerto, a real run for his money, and is equally strong in the piece by Maconchy. We need more of her music on disc.

Recommended as an unusual recital that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Limelight, Australia