July/August 2006


SUSAN NIGRO, CONTRABASSOON Susan Nigro (cbn); Mark Lindblad (pn) * CRYSTAL CD845 (66:13)

BESOZZI Sonata in Bb.  ROSSINI (arr. Berr) La Gazza ladra: Cavatina.  Allegro for Bassoon and Piano.  ROSSINI (arr. Zukerman) Quartet No. 6: Introduction.  Theme, and Variations.  PROCACCINI Moments, op. 154.  ALBINONI (arr. Giazotto) Adagio in g.  NUSSIO Divertimento.  VIVALDI Bassoon Sonata No. 3 in a.

This is Susan Nigro’s fourth CD for Crystal Records, a company that specializes in performances of music for wind and brass instruments.  The disc has two appropriate subtitles:  “Bellissima” and “Italian Tunes for the Big Bassoon.”  Perhaps some connoisseurs will think the superlative degree of beautiful not quite appropriate for the biggest and deepest sounding of the woodwinds, but they should listen before making such a judgment.  Certainly there are notes struck in some of her selections that sound rather like earthquakes, but they are fine of their kind, and, like Enzio Pinza or other great bass singers, Nigro can spin a legato melody with the best.

The program ranges across three centuries.  Vivaldi, Albinoni, and Besozzi represent the 18th; Rossini the 19th, and Nussio and Procaccini the 20th.  Otmar Nussio (1902-1990) does not sound particularly modern, but his Divertimento, consisting of five short movements, is full of charm and wit.  Teresa Procaccini (b. 1934) displays a fine gift for post-Debussy impressionism in her brief Moments.  A pleasant surprise is Remo Giazotto’s arrangement of the thrice-familiar Albinoni Adagio, making a highly effective piece for contrabassoon and piano.  I am particularly struck by how much it sounds like one of those dead (funeral) marches, much beloved by Romantic composers.

Pianist Mark Lindeblad may have his name in somewhat smaller type on the labels of this production, but he is an inspired collaborator.  Recording engineer Craig Bauer has balanced the two instruments superbly in this engaging CD.  Robert McColly