Daniel Jaffé
BBC Music Magazine
August 2021

Long ago, high-profile musicians gave ‘historical concerts’ to demonstrate the evolution of their instrument’s repertoire: in the 1880s, for instance, Anton Rubinstein toured Europe with his chronological traversal of keyboard music from the English virginalists to music of his time. Here bassoonist Laurence Perkins, less ambitiously, presents a series of works composed for his instrument from the dawn of the 20th century to 1999. Still, it’s an extensive programme, encompassing a variety of styles and forces ranging from bassoon solo to small orchestral ensembles.

There are some real treats, such as Bantock’s splendidly imaginative incidental music for Macbeth, scored for bassoon trio and winningly played here in its disc debut (indeed, there are no less than six premiere recordings in this set). But having the works presented in strictly chronological order hardly shows them to advantage. For instance, Saint-Saëns’s Bassoon Sonata of 1921, well-crafted but old-fashioned, seems a dull relic indeed when heard immediately after Prokofiev’s grotesquely comical Scherzo humoristique of 1912. Notwithstanding the uniformly excellent playing of Perkins and his colleagues, and fascinating as it is to listen through once, it’s more an album to be dipped into than to be listened to as a recital.