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Vivaldi And The Bassoon

Bassoon reeds

Nadina Mackie Jackson

Vivaldi wrote 39 concertos for bassoon, though none were published during his lifetime. Still, he contributed more to the bassoon repertory than just about any other composer before or since—and that’s something to pay attention to!

Certainly bassoonist, Nadina Mackie Jackson has. Working directly from Vivaldi’s manuscript in the Turin library, Jackson created her own performing editions of these pieces for this 2012 recording from MSR Music. Here, Jackson performs Vivaldi bassoon concertos with Nicholas McGegan on harpsichord and Lucas Harris on lute and guitar, along with one on a part strings: Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman (violins), David Rose (viola), Raphaél Dubé (cello), and Dominic Girard (bass).

While this recording utilizes several top baroque specialists in the early music field, it’s worth noting that Jackson performs on a modern bassoon.

Every performance of old music is a re-creation of some sort, so while this isn’t a bona fide period instrument recording, Jackson does bring an authentically enjoyable and musically impressive performance.

Baroque and Modern Bassoons

It’s worth thinking about the differences between performances on a modern rather than baroque bassoon. In these concertos, Vivaldi exploited the bassoon of his day, highlighting it as a solo instrument and pushing it to more virtuosic limits. But in Vivaldi’s time, the bassoon had fewer keys, a larger inner bore, and a smaller range than later bassoons. For that reason, playing Vivaldi concertos on the modern bassoon with its added keys, extended range, and more even sound between the high and low registers, can sometimes run the risk of making this music sound almost too clean, or too easy.

Sergio Azzolini

A 2012 Naïve recording from Sergio Azzolini, with the ensemble L’Aura Soave Cremona. Right away, you’ll hear a difference in sound. Azzolini plays a period baroque bassoon rather than a modern one, and the L’Aura orchestra is large by comparison comprised of 6 violins, and 2 each in the viola and cello section.

Compared with Jackson, Azzolini tends toward slower tempos, and the orchestral texture is much thicker. But there are certain places on this recording where L’Aura opts for a more transparent sound, as in the C major concerto RV 474, where the strings are reduced to one on a part.

This recording is the third in a set of Vivaldi concertos from Azzolini and L’Aura. One aspect that makes this set of recordings stand out is how these performers highlight the theatrical and improvisatory aspects of Vivaldi’s music in a way that keeps these pieces fresh, charming and individual.

Interviews with Jackson and Azzolini

Nadina Mackie Jackson speaks with Conversations@TheWholeNote

An interview with Sergio Azzolini from playwithapro

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