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Fagotto con forza
Knut Sönstevold with Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Öquist, Uppsala Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Wind Ensemble, Axelsson

Phono Suecia, PSCD 164 [TT: 73 mins]

Mårtensson, Per (1967) Bassoon Concerto
Eliasson, Anders (1947) Wellen
Chini, André (1945) Goélette de jade
Börtz, Daniel (1943) Concerto
Nilsson, Ivo (1966) Diabas for basson and percussion

This is a staggering release, and surely unique (as is Dan Laurin's of recorder concertos). There is renewed interest in instruments which remain in the shadows, and it is to the credit of all concerned that symphony orchestral bassoonist Knut Sönstevold has persuaded his colleagues and Phono Suecia to put togther on disc this fascinating programme; over seventy minutes of surprises and many of them astonishing.

Their precursor was Vivaldi, the greatest composer for the bassoon, but how often do you hear his 37 bassoon concertos? Today's instrumentalists owe a debt to Berio, whose Sequenzas demonstrated the extended possibilities for each, that for bassoon particularly important.

It had long been Sönstevold's dream to play the bassoon with a large orchestra "but it is weak in volume compared to a large symphony orcestra". His own words are quoted in the booklet; Mårtensson built his "continuous almost improvisatory journey through a changing landscape from twelve multiphonic chords analysed spectrally, using tonality inherent there". Skilfully written for the instrument, it makes good listening, as do all the other works here, though one cannot be entirely sure how the balance would work live; it would anyway be an uphill struggle to promote concert performances abroad.

No reservations though about the rest of these additions to a slender repertory. They should be taken up elsewhere - in music colleges, if finances preclude regular concert performances.

Eliasson's Waves for bassoon and piano is "extremely logical, in some sort of modality, a watertight system - you can't change a note - - My God, how well composed this piece is". Interesting and accessible; completely viable for recital use anywhere.

Chini, composer and multi-instrumentalist, wrote his concerto after borrowing Sönstevold's Heckel bassoon for a few months, "it sounds extremely well, uses the playfulness of the bassoon along with all its registers - - unbelievably well written".

In the Bortz concerto Sönstevold found Ligeti and Sibelius's "Nordic melancholy" with "a lot of feeling" which makes it satisfying to play as to hear.

Nilsson (director of Stockholm's Spoken Sound Festival for New Music 2005 which we attended, and composer of the Dadaesque Roto Relief) contributes the most off-beat yet thoroughly practical work, a duo for bassoon and bass zither, would you believe?

Nilsson "has a sense of humour, an ironic distance" and tests both instruments to the limit, ending with "a dry toneless rhythmic game for the duo with slap-tongue and damped strings".





Sönstevold plays Stockhausen Nosag Records - NOSAGCD 042

© Peter Grahame Woolf