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Sergio Azzolini

A dazzling personality, he is a real phenomenon on the bassoon. A fantastic, virtuoso musician, Sergio Azzolini was born in Bolzano, close to the Austrian border, in 1967. It was there that he started to learn the bassoon, which he would later master in Hanover with Klaus Thunemann. At the same time, he became the solo bassoonist for the European Community Youth Orchestra. Passionate about his instrument and its different historical incarnations, he would collect bassoons from all different eras, moving from one to the other with stunning facility, depending on what music he is performing.

Much sought-after by baroque ensembles, he regularly plays with Christophe Coin's Baroque Ensemble of Limoges, but also with the Aura Soave from Cremona, the Sonatori della Gioiosa Marca, and Cologne's La Stravaganza. Sergio Azzolini is also a conductor and has directed a number of lyrical productions such as La Fida ninfa by Vivaldi, Galuppi's Nozze di Dorina, Montezuma by Graun and Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. With his unkempt hair, his shapeless suits and his prodigious virtuosity, the Italian musician gives to the bassoon, normally such a low-profile instrument, a front-rank role, moving, exuberant and poetic.

Antonio Vivaldi certainly got it right when he wrote nearly 50 concertos for this instrument, bringing out all of its deep melancholy. What's more, half of this body of work is in a minor key, itself a rare thing in the music of the generally-optimistic Red Priest. Sergio Azzolini and the Cremonan ensemble L’Aura Soave, have recorded all of these works for NAÏVE. The first volumes which have been released so far paint a Vivaldi with a great expressive depth.

Sergio Azzolini has other surprises up his sleeve as well: two albums dedicated to the Concertos of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, one of the 18th Century's most enchanting, and most troubled composers. Another marvel is Mozart's Concerto for Bassoon in B-flat Major. Mocking and exquisite in its first movement, the bassoon becomes harrowing in the andante which follows, before inviting the listener to a dance in the final rondo, in the form of a minuet. It is said that Mozart wrote several concertos which are lost today. Surely it is time to set things right in the libraries... The performance that Sergio Azzolini gives on an authentic instrument from Mozart's lifetime (1790) creates a velvety sound very close to the human voice.

Sergio Azzolini regularly plays with clarinettist Sabine Meyer's Bläserensemble, the Trio Maurice Bourgue and several other groups who use period instruments. He teaches bassoon and chamber music at the Basel Academy of Music.

François Hudry/QOBUZ/November 2017

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