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GRAMOPHONE (04/2013)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp


Bach and Telemann arranged for bassoon and viola

Why would a viola player or a bassoonist not want to play Bach? And who with a heart would want to stop them? Here then are three Bach concertos served up to allow these instruments to bloom: a viola concerto based on the E major Harpsichord Concerto (itself thought to have originally been an oboe concerto); a bassoon concerto derived from various concerto-like cantata movements that may also have once been an oboe concerto; and a concerto for viola and bassoon that many will recognise as the Violin and Oboe Concerto (though that itself is a modern-day speculative reconstruction of a Double Harpsichord Concerto, BWV1060). You get the picture: Bach arranged this music for whatever was convenient, and so have these artists. They add two works by Telemann: his perfectly genuine Viola Concerto and a Concerto for two violas adapted for viola and bassoon.


It all works well enough because this is great music and these are fine players. Lars Anders Tomter’s rich, resonant and bouncy tone is obviously that of a modern viola, but though he threatens to overpower the orchestra in places he shows plenty of style and vim. Martin Kuuskmann is not always as nimble but he can make his instrument sing and yearn when necessary. The Norwegian orchestra 1B1 play with bright freedom and generally give a good account of themselves. In the end, though, it is all just a bit strange: as you listen to the woody, sepia-filtered version of BWV1060’s ravishing slow movement, it is like visiting a parallel universe in which these two Cinderella instruments have always been at the ball. But then who is to say that, had we all a different mind-set, such could not have been so?
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