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Fanfare Magazine: 34:2 (11-12/2010) 
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Reviewer: Alan Swanson

Thirty-seven completed and two unfinished bassoon concertos, more than for any other instrument except the violin; Vivaldi must have had one terrific fagottista in that ospedale. Well, Sergio Azzolino is pretty good, too.

Michael Talbot’s sensible notes observe that the bassoon concertos seem to come from the latter part of Vivaldi’s career, though, as with much of Vivaldi’s work, exact dating is seldom possible. He attributes this to a void in Italy between the fading of the dulcian from the standard instrumental ensemble and the slow introduction there of the Franco-German bassoon.

Vivaldi’s endless inventiveness is fully at work here. He rarely treats the instrument as the clown of the ensemble, which does not mean he does not allow it to have fun; try the last movement of RV 495, for instance. But everywhere are his wonderful melodies, especially in the slow, sometimes langorous, middle movements of these three-movement pieces; try the slow movement of RV 477.

Azzolino’s four-keyed bassoon makes a soft sound, which goes well with the early instruments of the band. There is a sense of the aria in his interpretation: He plays deftly and tends to treat rhythms, especially of the fioriture of fast movements, rather liberally. Whether one likes this effect or not may determine whether or not one buys this recording. I was only occasionally bothered by it, as in the slow movement of RV 488, but I think that, on the whole, it works. The ensemble plays wonderfully and the recording is clear.

From the number on the sleeve, I take this to be the first of an integral set of Vivaldi’s bassoon concertos in Naïve’s ongoing Vivaldi project. Its only rival that I can find is the one on modern instruments by Daniel Smith from 1986–91, rereleased on ASV. In Fanfare 25:6, Michael Carter gave it an enthusiastic review, seconded by Ronald Grames in 32:5, who, however, also commended the Naxos set of all the completed concertos, played by Tamás Benkócs, as an inexpensive way to get to know them.

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