Bassoon Recording Reviews
Reviews by Ronald Klimko
Bellissima: Italian Tunes for the Big Bassoon:
Susan Nigro, Contrabassoon, Mark Lindeblad, Piano.
In her latest recording, contrabassoon specialist Susan Nigro takes on the music by Italian composers from Baroque to Romantic to Modern. These include music by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751), Girolamo Besozzi (1704-1778), Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), Otmar Nussio (1902-1990) and Teresa Procaccini (1934-), the later being the only one alive today as well as the least familiar of these famous Italians.
Accompanied by pianist Mark Lindeblad, Susan has a lot of fun playing the various roles that Italian music often demands. The “prima donna diva” in Rossini’s Cavatina from his opera La Gazza Ladra is a particularly good example. But there is also the “grief enveloped baritone voice” role she plays in Albinoni’s funeral Adago in g minor (a beautiful performance that I found to be particularly touching); the Baroque virtuoso artist she portrays in the Sonata in Bb Major by Besozzi and Vivaldi’s Sonata No. 3 in a minor; and the “Romantic tenor”: required in Rossini’s Allegro (edited by William Waterhouse in a Universal Edition).
While most of the literature on this CD was originally written for (or played most often by) the bassoon, some of the works are contrabassoon originals. These include a lovely 4+ minute contra/piano piece by Roman-based modern composer Teresa Procaccini entitled Moments, op. 153. This is a somber, expressive new work for the contra that, while modern, still retains the beauty of bel canto writing for which the Italians are so famous. Moreover, Susan also plays Otmar Nussio’s Divertimento for contrabassoon and piano, a 9+ minute, five movement composition originally composed for contra and first performed by Fernando Ghilhardotti of the Italian-Swiss Radio Orchestra (according to the excellent program notes). This latter work is a fun piece of witty, humorous, often tongue-in-cheek music in Neo-Classical style which is a delight to hear.
The final work on this fine CD is a George Zuckerman arrangement of Rossini’s Introduction, Theme and Variations from his Wind Quartet #6, a piece Rossini wrote late in his life. And while this is again a work originally transcribed for bassoon and piano, Susan makes it work very well for the contra. And in the process she is able to “show off” both technically and musically in the delightful variations.
Throughout the recording Susan’s playing is superb. With her excellent musicianship and style she often makes you forget that you are listening to a “lowly” contrabassoon (pun intended), and you find yourself concentrating instead on the beauty of her tone, her flawless technique, or the lovely expressiveness of her phrasing. In short, she presents the contrabassoon as a musical instrument and not as a ‘freak show’, and for this she has my deepest admiration and respect. Mark Lindeblad’s piano accompaniments match Susan’s style and presentation perfectly as well. The recording technique, too, is excellent in terms of balance and presence between the two instruments. This is a wonderful recording showcase for the contrabassoon, and I recommend it strongly to you.
Rating: 3 Crows