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Review: Double Reeds

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The bassoon is an often unjustly neglected instrument. Beyond Mozart there is a near absence of significant concertos. Stravinsky used it prominently at the beginning of his Rite of Spring but in so high a register Saint-Saens refused to believe it actually was a bassoon.

Saturday evening the women of the Albuquerque Baroque Players hosted bassoonist C. Keith Collins in a concert called “Double Reeds,” consisting of predominantly French works. A most personable fellow, Collins gave a mini lecture about the baroque bassoon, even demonstrating how it comes apart, then joined by the ABP proceeded to
play some of the more splendid examples of how the instrument was employed by composers of that era.

The evening at the Fellowship Christian Reformed Church began with a charming Trio Sonata in e minor by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier with Collins and oboist MaryAnn Shore in exquisite playing of some animated counterpoint. The three-movement work has a grace of motion coupled with an encompassing range of mood — decidedly a gem of the period.
Accompanied by continuo (viola da gamba, Mary Bruesch and harpsichord, Susan Patrick), Collins gave a picturesque account of Telemann’s sonata in f minor from “Der Getreue Music-Meister” (The Faithful Music Master), a periodical which contained both music and articles about music. This is a quirky work full of unexpected melodic twists and turns, intriguing for its combination of a generally happy mood given in the bassoon’s forlorn sound.

Duos, by first Hotteterre and later Couperin, comprised a third of the evening.

Versatile musicians both, Collins and Shore abandoned their double reed instruments for recorders in Hotteterre’s Premiere Suite in six movements full of contrasting tempos.
The Couperin duet, his 13th concert, was part of a series of works, Les goûts réunis (Styles Reunited), which attempted to synthesize the Italian and French styles waging a virtual war on each other. Collins was joined here by Bruesch on the viola da gamba in this collection of four dance movements.

Shore returned with her oboe for the Sonata in F from the English composer William Babell, a beautiful work, cast in four typically alternating slow and fast movements, to which she lent a most expressive beauty of tone.

But the final work, Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata in a minor, was the most impressive offering from a standpoint of sheer virtuosity and breath control. The opening Largo contains several of Vivaldi’s patented musical effects, while the Allegro became a racy interplay of melodic lines. But in the final Allegro molto the two soloists barely stopped at any point to take a breath, an exceptional display of both skill and stamina executing the rapid figurations, on instruments often difficult to control, with masterful dexterity.

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