Bach au Bassoon – Instrumental – Reviews


J.S. Bach
Party No. 2; French Suite No. 5; Flute Partita; Cello Suite No. 1 (arr. bassoon)
Bram van Sambeek (bassoon)
BIS BIS-2637 (CD/SACD) 67:46 min

The multifaceted world of Bach’s transcriptions is a source of joy. The composer himself was an avid transcriber of his own works and Bram van Sambeek follows this distinguished line. A famous classical musician and teacher, Sambeek also performs and records contemporary jazz and rock. This bassoon arrangement collection of suites for keyboard, cello and flute is bold, sometimes challenging, but almost always captivating.

Inevitably there are problems in crafting versions for solo instrument from such richly textured keyboard works as the Partita in C minor for harpsichord and the Fifth French suite. For the Partita, Sambeek creates a version for eight bassoons, each part played by him in a simultaneous recording. The opening of the ‘Sinfonia’ with all eight bassoons in ‘full fig’ has an appropriate grandeur and the faster sections have an ‘uneven’ quality of captivating style, but despite the ingenuity of the spread chords in the ‘Courante », the whole is not always convincing.

G major French suite is played entirely solo and has both elegance and a strong sense of forward movement. In the famous prelude to Cello Suite No. 1, Sambeek’s careful placement of key points of punctuation is continually engaging, and the dance moves are energized by catchy phrasing and a sense of humor. With the best will in the world, however, and despite Sambeek’s generous variety of tones, the continuous listening is a bit unnerving. Bassoon aficionados won’t need encouragement, others may want to enjoy this anthology in small doses.

Jan Smaczny


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