COMPACT DISC REVIEW    By Jack Rummel

 

Joplin Tunes for the Big Bassoon
Susan Nigro, contrabassoon; Mark Lindeblad, piano
Crystal Records CD848

 

Maple Leaf Rag / Original Rags / The Easy Winners / Cleopha / The Strenuous Life / Elite Syncopations / The Favorite / The Sycamore / The Chrysanthemum / The Cascades / Bethena / Rag-Time Dance / Fig Leaf Rag / Solace / Pleasant Moments / New Rag (sic) / Magnetic Rag / The Entertainer.

 

     The bassoon, a reed instrument that supplies lower tones than a clarinet or an oboe, is an integral part of any symphony orchestra.  While compositions for solo bassoon have existed since the 18th century, their popularity has remained limited.  The contrabassoon, also called the double bassoon, is a larger version of the bassoon, sounding an octave lower.  Due to its unique tone register, its usage and renown have been narrow.

     Susan Nigro, one of the worldís very few contrabassoon soloists, is determined to bring well-deserved attention to this little-known instrument.  Her six CDs have garnered recognition in the classical field and she now adds ragtime to her list of accomplishments.  Scott Joplin may not have had the contrafagotto in mind for his rags, but Nigro has succeeded in adapting them well to its use.

     Often considered the clown of the orchestra because of its distinctive nasal tone quality, the bassoonís appeal in a ragtime setting may surprise many listeners, especially the low, low pitch of its contra cousin.  Yet, Nigro and her accompanist, Mark Lindeblad, have produced likeable arrangements that bring new life to Joplinís pieces.  Most of the eighteen selections have been abbreviated, either by omitting sections or eschewing repeats.  This decision proves to be a wise one, as too much of a familiar rag played on an uncommon instrument of limited range can sometimes grow weary.

     The sound quality is very good, the tempos are all very appropriate and the liner notes offer much useful information.  To truly appreciate the rich resonance of the contra, be sure to play this recording on a quality sound system.  All in all, Susan Nigro and Mark Lindeblad have successfully honored Joplinís music while putting some new fun into it.  This is definitely a departure from the staid approach of many all-Joplin CDs and wonít be out of place in any ragtime fanís library.

     Available for $16.95 postpaid from Crystal Records, 28818 NE Hancock Road, Camas, WA 98607, or at <www.crystalrecords.com> or <www.amazon.com>.