Vivaldi – Oboe & Bassoon Concertos
Simon Fuchs, oboe; Matthias Racz, bassoon
Johannes Schlaefli, conduction
Ars Produktion, 2016
Apart from the rich harvest of concertos for string instruments as violin and cello, it was for two instruments of the woodwind family, the bassoon and the oboe, that Antonio Vivaldi composed the major part of his instrumental works in fulfilment of his duties as a teacher at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice.
The invention of the oboe is dated around 1670, probably in Paris, although the date and the place are not certain. It was usually called hautbois at this time and it was under this name that it spread throughout Europe and arrived in Venice, where it was sporadically used in operas in the last decade of the century. The first collection of concertos, composed by Tomaso Albinoni, was printed only in 1715: the instrument was therefore a novelty during Vivaldi’s lifetime.
The origins of the bassoon are obscure and controversial, but the first attestations of the instrument date from the middle of the 17th century, when it replaced its forerunner, the dulcian, a one-piece instrument mentioned for the first time in 1592 in Zacconi’s Prattica di musica and fallen into disuse in the 18th century. The advent of a new instrument ignited the creative imagination of several composers as Carlo Besozzi, J. F. Fasch, J. D. Heinichen and Christoph Schaffrath, who competed to write music for it, but the most important legacy is represented by the thirty-nine concertos composed by Vivaldi, who devoted to the bassoon more works than for any other instrument except the violin. Apart from two concertos, dedicated to a local player and to his Bohemian patron, all the concertos were written for the girls of the Pietà.
The present recording collects seven of Vivaldi’s oboe and bassoon concertos performed by oboist Simon Fuchs and bassoonist Matthias Racz together with the Kurpfälzisches Kammerorchester conducted by Johannes Schlaefli. This collection represent – of course – only a small part of Vivaldi’s catalogue, but the selected works offer a reasonable variety both from the inspirational and the technical point of view and the precious alternation between the warm and vivacious sound of the bassoon and the light and charming sound of the oboe.
The latter instrument has some of its best moments in the Concerto in D Major, RV 453, where it sounds witty in the first allegro and then describes a kind of Venetian lullaby in the next Largo, in the Concerto in F Major, RV 457, where Fuchs expresses with his oboe some accents of sympathy that later are echoed in the accompaniment of the second movement, and in the jocose Oboe Concerto in A Minor, RV 461. The bassoon is equally well represented by the melancholic Concerto in E Minor, RV 484, which is a surprise after a series of amusing, “shining” compositions, among which is worth remembering at least another Bassoon Concerto in E-Flat Major, RV 483, with its original last movement. The combination of the two instruments in the last work, the Concerto for Oboe & Bassoon in G Major, RV 545, is a perfect end and a wonderful summary of everything that has been previously experienced.
Beautiful music and exquisite performance are therefore the main features of this recording.