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Why, then, did Vivaldi write thirty-nine concertos for the bassoon, allowing Naxos the probable luxury of a further five CDs? His productivity was legendary: 'I have heard him boast of composing a concerto with all its parts in less time than it would take a copyist to copy it.' The more than two hundred and thirty violin concertos are evidence enough. The bassoon total is in fact the next largest, and Vivaldi may have wished to compensate his young musicians at the Pietà for the otherwise servile task of doubling bass lines. Vivaldi here throws down the gauntlet to any bassoonist, let alone a tiro of the early eighteenth century. He demands prodigies of agility and range, combined with an effortless tenor cantilena to wring the withers. The virtuosity of Tamás Benkócs is a constant wonder in a series of conjuring tricks that astonish as much as they delight. Here he is at his most ebullient in a characteristic F major work [listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:22]. That soloist and orchestra can sensitively engage with a more sombre Vivaldi is clear from the start of the A minor concerto [listen -- track 10, 0:00-1:05].

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Copyright © 10 December 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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