Behind The Music: Antonio Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto, for bassoon, strings & continuo in A minor, RV 498
Announcer: After a series of mildly successful modern instrument recordings of baroque concertos, The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields assembled in the recording studio in late 1976 for a session with famed conductor Sir Neville Marriner. And, luckily for us, the cameras were rolling.
Sir Neville Marriner: All right, ladies and gentlemen, I think we’re ready to lay this first track down. By the way, my name is Neville Marriner. Yes, Sir Neville Marriner. And I have got to tell you: ladies and gentlemen, you have got what appears to be a dynamite sound!
Concertmaster Iona Brown: Coming from you, Sir Neville, that means a lot.
Bassoon Soloist Martin Gatt: Yeah. I mean, you’re Sir Neville Marriner!
First Chair Oboe Neil Black: It’s incredible!
First Chair Flautist William Bennett: I can’t believe Sir Neville Marriner digs our sound!
Sir Neville Marriner: You’re too kind. I put my tuxedo pants on just like the rest of you – one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I wave this baton to set the tempo for the whole orchestra. And besides, I’ve been your conductor since founding this orchestra in 1959 so there’s no reason to get all excited. [ the orchestra laughs ] All right, here we go, Antonio Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto, for bassoon, strings & continuo in A minor, RV 498 – take one. [ Marriner stands behind the conductor’s podium ]
[ Neil Black plays concert A. The orchestra tunes to him. Neil makes eye contact with Iona Brown. Brown nods at Sir Neville, who taps his music stand with his baton. Marriner raises his baton. There is a moment of anticipation. The baton is lowered. Brown fiddles. Black and Bennett blow. Martin Gatt comes in. Rather than blending into the background, the bassoon is very much in the foreground of this concerto. Gatt’s sound is full and round and his playing has many humorous and personal touches ]
Brown: [ distracted by Gatt playing the bassoon ] Okay! Wait! Wait! [ the orchestra stops playing ] Sir Neville, could you come over here for a minute, please?
Marriner: [ stepping out from behind the podium ] That was going to be a great track. Pray tell, what is the deal?
Brown: Are you sure that was sounding okay?
Marriner: I’ll be honest. My good people, it was sounding great. But, well, I could have used a little more bassoon. So let’s take it again. And, Martin?
Gatt: Yes, Sir Neville?
Marriner: Really explore the studio space this time. I mean, really explore the space. I like what I’m hearing.
[ the orchestra starts the concerto again, as Gatt plays even more wildly while bending his knees in time to the music. At the podium, Sir Neville is smiling to keep from laughing. Before the session is interrupted, Gatt blows a squeaky note on his bassoon.]
Brown: Okay, wait! Stop! I’m sorry. Sir Neville, could you come back over here, please?
Marriner: [ stepping out from behind the podium ] Ladies and gentlemen, now, we just wasted two good tracks! That last one was even better than the first!
Brown: Well, it’s just that I find Martin’s genial and lively bassoon playing distracting! If I’m the only one, I’ll shut up.
Black: It was pretty humorous and distinctive.
Gatt: You know, I could pull back a little. If you’d like.
Marriner: Not too much, though! Ladies and gents, I’m telling you – you are going to want that bassoon on the track!
Gatt: You know what? It’s fine. Let’s just do this thing.
[ the orchestra starts the concerto once more, with Gatt blowing his bassoon right into to Iona Brown’s ear until Brown pushes him, causing several music stands to fall over ]
Brown: [ stopping the concerto again, fighting Gatt ] Come on, people!
Marriner: [ running out from behind the podium yet again ] That – that doesn’t work for me. I have got to have more bassoon!
Black: [ grabs Gatt’s tuxedo jacket ] Don’t blow this for us, Martin!
Bennett: [ cracking up ] Yeah, quit being so selfish, Martin!
Gatt: Can I just say one thing?
Marriner: Say it, my good man. Say it.
Gatt: I’m standing here, staring at Sir Neville Marriner!
Marriner: Knighted by the Queen herself!
Gatt: And if Sir Neville wants more bassoon, we should probably give him more bassoon!
Marriner: Hear hear!
Gatt: And, William, you are right – I am being selfish. But the last time I checked, there are relatively few compositions that feature the bassoon.
Marriner: I have got to have more bassoon, kind sir!
Gatt: I dare say that I’ll be doing myself a disservice – [ getting emotional ] – and every member of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, if I don’t perform the Dickens out of this.
Marriner: Guess what? I have got a fever! And the only prescription is more bassoon!
Gatt: Thank you, Sir Neville. But, I think maybe I should just leave. Maybe I’ll come back later, and we can lay down the bassoon track. [ starts to leave the studio ]
Marriner: I say!
Brown: Martin, wait! Why don’t you lay down that bassoon right now? With us. Together.
[ everyone agrees ]
Gatt: Do you mean that, Iona?
Bennett: The Concertmaster speaks for us all.
Gatt: Thank you.
Marriner: My word! Good show! Before we’re done here you will all be playing gold-plated instruments.
Black: [ confused ] What does that mean?
Marriner: Never question Sir Neville Marriner! [ goes back behind podium ] Is everyone in tune?
Eric: [ ready to lay the complete movement down ]. Yes, Sir Neville.
[ the orchestra starts up again, this time Gatt is playing the bassoon in tune with the concertmaster. Close-up on Gatt as he plays the bassoon. Freeze the frame. ]
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