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Bassoon and Bassoonist
Judith Leclair & Johnny Reinhard

Judith Leclair - Works for Bassoon

Andres: Chants d'arrière-saison
Boutry: Interferénces I for bassoon & piano
Glière: Humoresque Op. 35 No. 8
Milde: Andante and Rondo, Op. 25; Polonaise
Saint-Saëns: Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op. 168

Judith Leclair (bassoon) & Jonathan Feldman (piano) [pictured, with their son Gabriel], Gretchen Van Hoesen (harp)

Avie - AV2181

The burgeoning of CDs looking to something different in a crowded market has done wonders to upgrade "Cinderella instruments" in public awareness. Long past now are - or should be - bassoon and viola jokes...

Here are two exceptional bassoon discs (a third, last year, was Karen Geoghegan, Chandos).

Judith Leclair, principal of the New York Philharmonic, is a superb musician, her instinctive phrasing and the mellow tone of her lovely instrument matching those of any of the much-lauded vocalists who dominate many people's musical firmanent. Her repertoire has surprises and delights, not least Songs of a Season Past by harpist-composer Bernard Andrès (pieces which can be played also by horn or cello). Most modern ot the items is Roger Boutry’s Interférences I (also featured by Karen Geoghegan). From beginning to end, a treasurable disc.

If you still don't have one in your collection, buy this; and treat yourself to either (or both) of Georghan's and Leclair's - and give yourself extra pleasure whilst gaining comprehensive insights about an orchestral musician's working life in Judith Leclair's on-line interview.

Johnny Reinhard's ensemble American Festival of Microtonal Music has recorded Bach Brandenburg concerti and works by Bach contemporaries, played as they were intended - "listening to music in a new way by listening to it in a very old way".

Their website http://www.afmm.org/ is a model of how these things can be done; full details and notes for all the CDs can be accessed on line by clicking onto the cover images there; they are not supplied with the discs themselves.

On Bassoonist there is weird and wonderful music to be heard, all of it freed from the constraints of the 12 notes-in-an-octave strait-jacket, a pointer to how some music is bound to develop in the remaining nine decades of this century.

Full review of some of the Microtonal Festival discs received will follow.

Meanwhile do see and hear on line two splendid videos of Johnny in action in live concert recordings, one of his solo Zanzibar [included on the CD Pitch P-200214]: "The composer-performer transforms the timbre of the bassoon, creating new imagery by recasting the instrument to allow for fresh sound worlds - - techniques used include: morphing, use of a ping pong ball, a reed machine, muting, and crossing hands"; and the other Reinhard's The New Administration for Bassoon and String Quartet in Polymicrotonality, an 11 mins movement which by the end you will, I hope, find beautiful?

Peter Grahame Woolf