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Briefly Noted: New Music for Contrabassoon

available at Amazon
Music for Contrabasson, H. Agreda, M. Racz, A. Kirichenko, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, P. Muñoz-Toledo

(released on August 9, 2019)
Ars Produktion ARS3826 | 63'35"
The contrabassoon has been around since the 18th century, but it was not featured in orchestral music widely until it reached a more reliable form in the 19th century. It does not have much solo repertory, either concertos or chamber music: Gunther Schuller wrote the first solo concerto for the instrument, for contrabassoonist Lewis Lipnick, who still plays with the National Symphony Orchestra and also premiered the Contrabassoon Concerto by Kalevi Aho. (Lipnick switched from the contrabassoon to a new instrument called the contraforte a decade ago.)

Hans Agreda, principal contrabassonist of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, has made this disc of music for the finicky instrument, with all but one of the pieces recorded for the first time. Listeners likely think of the contrabassoon's potentially comic low range, the feature of the instrument generally exploited by orchestral composers, but it can also sound more melodic, like a bassoon in its high range.

The composers of the works are worth getting to know, including Kees Olthuis, former bassoonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Gerhard Deutschmann, who wrote a sonata for contrabassoon and piano; the Russian Victor Bruns, former bassoonist with the Staatskapelle Berlin; and Germany-based Efraín Oscher. The Bruns concerto for contrabassoon is the highlight, performed with Agreda's colleagues from the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and conductor Paulo Muñoz-Toledo.

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