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MATTHIAS KRONSTEINER - Modified: Music for Bassoon - Matthias Kronsteiner (Bassoon) - Lisa Preimesberger (Bass Clarinet) - Thomas Frey (Flute) - Ernst Weissensteiner (Double Bass) - 9006238003753 - Released: August 2011 - Composers Concordance Records - COMCON005

When asked which instrument they enjoy listening to the most on its own, in a solo role, most people automatically say they prefer the piano, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, guitar or saxophone 9 times out of 10. All other instruments, including the bassoon, are usually relegated to the back rows of the orchestra, destined to forever play a small part within the orchestral sound texture. Strange when you consider the bassoon's manifold and versatile qualities. It can sound comical, spectral, evocative, and even characterful as in its portrayal of the grandfather in Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf'. And once you hear this neglected instrument under the command of Matthias Kronsteiner, you may extend the list of adjectives with descriptions like jazzy, vocal, athletic, raunchy, mellow and complex.

I must admit that when this new CD was kindly submitted to me for review, I kept putting off my first audition out of fear that new music written specifically for this odd instrument would be disappointing to say the least, and not warrant a review on my part. I could not have been more off target in my preconception. Most of the pieces on this recording display either variety, color, daring, spunk, aural candy, or a combination of all of the above and keep your attention focused on Kronsteiner's playing. The fluid and haunting energy of the Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6 for flute and bassoon by Heitor Villa-Lobos. The jazzy upbeat fun of Low Agenda by Gernot Wolfgang for bassoon and double bass which really brings out the bassoon's kinship to the saxophone. A hypnotizing piece for solo bassoon by David Lang titled Press Release due to its rapid successions of pressed and released keys which I am sure must have driven Matthias Kronsteiner insane until he got all the sequences down. Two fascinating works by Johannes Berauer which could be the perfect sonic backdrop to many movies, titled Mizar A and Mizar B, written for bassoon, bass clarinet and human voice. A trio combination that works so well under the hands of Matthias Kronsteiner, Lisa Preimesberger and Philipp Sageder, that they should consider a complete album and tour as this unique formation. The final piece on the CD, written by Gene Pritsker, was the catalyst for this concept album. Titled Modified #3, it defies the bassoon's capabilities, and in the composer's own words, pushes the limits of where music for bassoon could possibly go. Three other pieces round out this CD.

When you hear playing of this calibre, the instrument almost becomes irrelevant. The music and musicianship take over, and in this case, Matthias Kronsteiner has given the lowly bassoon an opportunity to slip out of the shadows and capture the spotlight. The sound recording by Composers Concordance Records has captured the instrument's character perfectly and set it against the other players in an ideal balance and natural acoustic.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2011