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Graham Waterhouse, Giovanni Gabrieli, AntonReicha, Gordon Jacob, Jean Françaix, Giuseppe Tamplini etc

Wigmore Hall, London, 16 April 2011

The Proud Bassoon was Park Lane Group's Celebratory Concert for William Waterhouse, featuring the bassoon in chamber music.

'Bill' Waterhouse, principal bassoonist of the LSO 1958-1966 & BBCSO 1966-85, was also a stalwart of the Melos Ensemble, a pioneering group of top players who devoted themselves to chamber music for larger ensembles.

Musicians stayed with the Melos for decades, and in this memorial celebration the large international group of participants was joined by one of them, the veteran clarinettist Gervase de Peyer - who was in my class at boarding school when evacuated from London during WW2. So this concert was full of memories...

Outstanding items were Gabrieli/W.Waterhouse Sonata Pian’ e Forte arranged for an ensemble of 17 bassoons, raising the Wigmore Hall roof; Reicha's Grand Quintetto in which Lyndon Watts played a melliflous 1823 bassoon from the William Waterhouse collection of Historical Musical Instruments in Manchester [R]. There were chamber works with bassoon from the ever-resourceful Jacob and Francaix, and a really spectacular Donizetti/Tamplini set of variations given by Stefano Canuti, Manchester based bassoon tutor at the RNCM.

The lavish programme book is a real collectors' piece, with numerous photos and accolades for an exceptional musician and special person, including one from Karlheinz Stockhausen, who wrote "I greet him in the beyond and hope to meeet him again"; four days later Stockhausen himself died...

In my listing above, I have highlighted William's cellist son Graham, who took a prominent part in the chamber music performances, and also emerged as a considerable composer, successful in Germany and represented at Wigmore Hall by two notable works. The UK concert premiere of Epitaphium for W.R.W. packs a memorable punch and intensity into 76 bars, and Bright Angel, a major work for bassoon quartet [L ], commemorating Graham's visit with his father to the Grand Canyon, Colorado.

The event was superbly organised and presented, with a real buzz in the hall and cameras flashing from time to time.

Its 2 1/2 hours didn't feel too long, as the items were well varied and all fairly short; those of Reicha, Françaix & Jacob were given in part, leaving you keen to hear the compete works

- try Spotify,


Only the concert's finale, the finale of Schubert's Octet, disappointed a little in this ad hoc group's performance. A Melos Ensemble 'signature work', it is available in their recordings re-released by EMI Classics [Boxed Set 50999 9 18514 2 0, Music among Friends], featuring Waterhouse & De Peyer throughout, and recommended to all interested in the 20.C history of music making in UK.

The concert was being filmed, and there is a valuable DVD to be made from it, one which ought to find its way into the libraries of every conservatoire's winds department...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Graham Waterhouse - Chamber Music

Cybele 660.601

Our receipt of CDs of this composer, featured in the celebratory concert in memory of his famous bassoonist father, has been a serendipitous spin-off from the event reported above.

Graham, virtuoso cellist and intense, expressive composer, who eschews recondite 'originality' as a prime diseratum, should nonetheless be better known in England.

He has lived in Munich, and this compilation was recorded in Leverkusen, 2000/2001. It is a production which has given us great pleasure, and is none the worse for bringing to mind Lisztian and Prokofievian pianism. His own contributions on the cello (including a Limerick with his own spoken voice) are always assured and interesting. Of special interest is a work for recorders which ought to have wide currency; in Le Charmeur de Serpents Agnes Marc, a wonderful recorder player, plays alto and sopranino recorders, sometimes both together à la Roland Kirk. The disc finishes with strong music for clarinet, cello and piano (1985/97/98).

Strongly recommended to collectors who like their modern music to retain some connection with tradition.


See too an appreciation in MusicWeb of this distinguished disc, with full track listing.

For bassoons on Musical Pointers, see: