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Karen Geoghegan in Recital & Concerto

French Bassoon Works

Bitsch: Concertino
Boutry: Interférences for bassoon and piano
Debussy: Pieces from Préludes and Children's Corner
Dutilleux: Sarabande et Cortège
Fauré/Oubradous: Pièce Transcribed by Fernand
Gallon: Récit et Allegro
Grovlez: Sicilienne & Allegro Giocoso
Jancourt: Nocturne (d'après John Field)
Koechlin: Bassoon Sonata, Op. 71
Pierné, G: Solo de concert, Op. 35
Tansman: Sonatina for bassoon and piano

Karen Geoghegan (bassoon) & Philip Fisher (piano)

Chandos CHAN 10521

The Scottish musician Karen Geoghegan switched from violin to bassoon at twelve and she presents her less popular and, maybe, less competitive instrument as musician first, instrumentalist second.

She has an innate sense of phrasing which makes every track of this recital disc a real joy; we've played it all through twice, and are captivated by the repertoire (some joint discoveries) as well as by the performances, in partnership with a pianist who she should hang on to tight - and to the Chandos recording team who excelled at Potton Hall.

I am eager to hear her playing live, and hope she will soon tackle (for PLG maybe?) some of the major 20th C works, possibly the Berio Sequenza and Skalkottas's (the BIS recording previously welcomed but listened to again after Geoghegan proved unexpectedly inadequate; dullish playing and muddy recording from a Paris church...).

Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.

Bassoon Concertos

Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra,W23.
Weber Andante e Rondo ungarese,J79 Op. 35.
C. Jacobi Introduction and Polonaise,Op. 9.
F. Berwald Konzertstück for Bassoon and Orchestra.
Elgar Romance,Op. 62.
Gershwin Porgy and Bess - Summertime
(This link is to see Karen playing Summertime on TV)


Chandos CD CHAN10477

We have since received for consideration Karen Geoghegan's debut recording of Bassoon Concertos, in which she displays equal 'musicality, poise, technique and quiet charm - lyrical movements have an engaging tenderness and are played with great maturity, while the virtuoso passages are tossed off with style and wit' (Jeremy Nicholas; Gramophone 8/2008).

It is the instinctive mature musicality of this very young soloist's phrasing that impressed me first in her recital disc reviewed above. Her virtuosity compares well with the (few) famous exponents of the instrument, but she doesn't throw it at you to amaze, just serves her composers and makes their works sound better than you might have guessed.

None of the works is over familiar and all of them are worth listening to more than once in these accounts. The partnership with Benjamin Wallfisch is comfortable (they both studied at London's Royal Academy) and the orchestral accompaniments are attractive and sound great as recorded in St George's Hall, Bradford.

Not to be overlooked, Rachel Smith's recording team and Ralph Couzens, the MD of Chandos Records who, so I learn, was astute enough to engage Karen for Chandos after she didn't quite become BBC's Classical Star.

Karen Georghegan also has another concerto, Wolf Ferrari's Suite-Concertino for Bassoon and 2 Horns, on a disc of that composer's mainly operatic music, but that interested me less [CHAN 10258].

Works for Bassoon and Orchestra (2)

Mozart: Bassoon Concerto in B flat major, K191
Rossini: Bassoon Concerto
Kreutzer, K: Variations in B flat
Crusell: Concertino in B flat major

Karen Geoghegan (bassoon)
BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda

Chandos - CHAN10613

Karen's 2010 release is another outright winner. She has easy command of her instrument and musicality which ensures that every note is in place without apparent effort; no bassoon jokes here. The tone is mellow, she is never unduly assertive, and everything is exactly in place. I wonder how much (or little) corrective 'patching' was needed to the first complete 'takes' of the movements?

There is a repertoire problem for bassoonists and I guess Karen, still only about 21, will be trying to persuade her composer friends to write for her; but that rarely produces enduring new works. Instead, she might do well to broaden her scope by going across the Atlantic to meet microtonalist specialist bassoonist Johnny Reinhard in America? And I look forward to hearing her do the massive Berio Sequenza No XII.

I don't find a website for Karen Georghegan with future concert appearances; I'd hoped she might be in the PLG New Year series on South Bank Centre? Her recital and concertos discs however deserve pride of place in anyone's woodwind music collection.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Arrangements for Bassoon

Schubert Sonata in A minor, D 821 `Arpeggione`
Schumann Fantasiestucke, Op. 73
Gustav Schreck Bassoon Sonata in E flat major, Op. 9
Spohr Adagio in F major
Rachmaninov Vocalise
Elgar Salut d`amour, Op. 12

Karen Geoghegan, bassoon; Philip Edward Fisher, piano

Chandos CHAN 10703

For her 2011 studio disc, Karen has trawled the repertoire for arrangements which suit her instrument, the obscure Gustav Schreck's sonata the only piece actually composed for bassoon.

They mostly sound pleasant enough, but do not have anything special or distinctive to say on her bassoon, which is sometimes too well mannered to make a strong case for it in some of the familiar music.

I fear Karen Geoghegan is in danger of 'scraping the barrel' to champion her instrument at all costs and so as to keep her name as a recitalist before the public.

So this is strictly one for bassoonists and bassoon students to enjoy; to me disappointing, and my advice last year above still holds.

Peter Grahame Woolf