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GRAMOPHONE (12/2022)
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Reviewer :
Mark Seow


Bram van Sambeek brings us Bach on the bassoon. And to overdo the alliteration, his playing is bold, beguiling and sufficiently bombastic. Jump straight to the Sarabande from the French Suite No 5, BWV816 – an excellent arrangement by Thiemo Wind – and you’ll experience playing that pulls you in, a gentle lyricism that makes you sit still. Or skip to the Allemande from the Partita in A minor, BWV1013, originally for solo flute, and van Sambeek gives us phrases that roll like unending countryside, not to mention a last note that will make you exhale with astonishment. The following movement, a Courante, uncompromising in luscious tone, is also vibrantly articulated.


The arrangement of the Partita No 2 in C minor, BWV826, that opens the programme is a product of the Covid lockdown. Can I tell that it’s multitracked? Yes – but not that it matters. Van Sambeek created a melodic thread – a ‘fagotto hypothetico’ – that would function as the rhythmic and harmonic framework for the other voices (as opposed to the more common method of recording to a click track). There is the slightest lack of organic sway, particularly in the moments of twopart counterpoint. The overall results are nonetheless excellent: the Sinfonia, with its pungent army of eight (!) multitracked bassoons, is a wonderful slap in the face. There’s playful expression, elegant trills, too, and the pitter-patter of keys towards the movement’s end is a delight.


One issue is the structuring of the album, and whether this is the most effective ordering of works to present Bach on ‘solo’ bassoon. Of course, the Partita is a fabulous start, but the effect across the album is one of sudden change. We don’t revisit the richness, and by the middle of the First Suite this is a sonority that is sorely missed. Perhaps some invention in creating new suites, moving between multitracked and solo works, would work well to combat the textural tedium.



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