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Vivaldi: Bassoon Concertos, Vol 2 - Fukui / Power

Vivaldi: Bassoon Concertos, Vol 2 - Fukui / Power

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 255

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Vivaldi: Bassoon Concertos RV 480, 497, 499, 502, Oboe Concerto RV 450, Concerto for 2 Oboes* RV 534, Concerto for Bassoon & Oboe RV 545

Miho Fukui (bassoon & oboe*)
Amy Power (oboe)
Ensemble F

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - June 25, 2018

A second release, offering a further set of Vivaldi concerti played by bassoonist Miho Fukui and her Ensemble F, put on record by the enterprising and prolific German label ARS Produktion, comes our way from Japan. This time Fukui is assisted by the Australian baroque oboist, Amy Power, for a programme of four Bassoon concerti, pleasantly mixed with one oboe solo, one double oboe, and one Bassoon / Oboe concerto.

The Hi-res catalogue is not short of these and collectors will be aware that overlaps between the various recordings are often unavoidable. Such is the case here as well. Interestingly, a large number come from the ARS Produktion stable. Not only played by Miho Fukui (2 volumes, of which the second with Amy Power), but also from Matthias Racz & Simon Fuchs (bassoon and oboe). And then there is other fish from such competent soloists like Pauline Oostenrijk on Challenge Classics (oboe) and Gustavo Nunez on Pentatone (bassoon) swimming in the same pond. And I may have forgotten some, hidden in various compilations. It is fair to say that all these have earned their rightful accolades.

One might argue that in principle all well recorded Vivaldi is always welcome; any time of the day or the night, no matter who’s playing, because it’s the kind of music that’s never boring. Better still: it’s balm for the soul. But does it suffice for making up one’s mind? Choosing the right trees in the ‘forest of plentiful’?

I believe there are enough good reasons to welcome this new release. For a start: The number of overlaps is reasonable. Only 3 out of seven. And what’s more important, Miho Fukui and Amy Power play on exact copies of period instruments: A Baroque bassoon after Thierriot Prudent (Paris, ca. 1765) and a Baroque oboe after Jonathan Bradbury (London, ca, 1720). Coupled with the fact that the accompanying ‘orchestra’ consists of only 7 chamber soloists, equally well equipped with period instruments, give the performances a different and intriguing sound palette; maybe less broadly polished and less ‘silvery’ tone, but miles more intimate, with a warm, blooming character and a rich bass line.

In his review of the first installment, John Miller described in detail the unique musical insight and attractive playing of Miho Fukui, as well as the fine support assured by Ensemble F, to which I have little or nothing to add. Fukui handles her instrument, though technically difficult, being a copy from the early days of French bassoon manufacturing, admirably well, producing a rustic bass line and soft, plaintive sonority in the upper region. And I’d like to think: Just like it must have sounded in the days of the Venetian master.

But there is more. New in this second volume is the partnership with oboist, Amy Power, whose name, quite frankly, should have been written on the cover of the booklet with the same font size of Fukui’s, as she is by no means the lesser soloist of the two. I must admit that I’d never heard before of this ‘wonder from down under’. What a talent! Reading her bio I see that, apart from solo engagements, she is active in Austria, where she now lives, playing in various Baroque formations, amongst which Die Neue Hofkapelle Graz. And from what I’ve read elsewhere I understand that she still is a member of the Australian Haydn Ensemble.

Taking it a little bit further: Amy Power studied early music at the Amsterdam Conservatory (“It was by no means easy; you need a thick skin to handle the Dutch and their directness”, she said in an interview with the Australian Armidale Express), after which she joined the European Union Baroque Orchestra. I must assume that it was her Dutch experience that gave her the stamina to work as a ‘global’ free-lance musician, now traveling all five continents, whilst making her way up to fame.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the listening. In the oboe concerto RV 450 she seduces not only with a perfect, technical command of her instrument, but demonstrates also how she is able to get that warm and mellow timbre, far away of the often so penetrating sound of modern oboes. For me it was pure joy to listen to her, boosting my spirits with two faultless Allegros and a singing Larghetto in the middle.

In both double concerti Amy and Miho play as equals, whereby Miho switched her bassoon for an oboe (there is no indication in the booklet as to what kind of Baroque oboe she’s playing) in the first of Vivaldi’s three concerti for 2 oboes (RV534). A lovely entertaining (in the best sense of the word) piece, with plenty of virtuosity and wit. They furthermore ‘duet’ in the only double concerto Vivaldi has written for Bassoon and Oboe (RV 545). Though tone and timbre of each instrument vary considerably according to pitch and power, Miho and Amy blend in amazingly well with each other as well as with the chamber soloists of F. And as the proverbial cherry on the cake goes, we owe much to the sound engineer that the overall balance is so natural.

If you want modern instruments, check out Vivaldi: Oboe, Bassoon Concertos - Fuchs / Rácz / Schlaefli which is somewhat sharper etched and maybe a shade too silvery clear in tone, or Vivaldi: Oboe Concertos - Oostenrijk / de Vriend which is nigh perfect and beautifully recorded. But for all period fans I would recommend opting for Fukui & Power. More than an hour of joy will be your reward (and why not scoop up Vol 1 as well).

Blangy-le-Château,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2018 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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