General reviews
mozart and well beyond


[from:] “The best new recordings from North America”

A stunning new Mozart edition links the old with the contemporary

“While a sensitive and sculpted reading of Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto by soloist Michael Sweeney is the highlight of this disc, its overall conception and presentation raise it to another level.

“By all rights, the principal bassoonist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra could have stopped after recording an excellent interpretation of the Mozart concerto using a new performing edition he authored. Sweeney went further, however, combining it with three contemporary works by Canadian composers Marjan Mozetich and Rodney Sharman, and American composer Michael Welsh. In doing so, he crafted a manifesto of sorts about the bassoon today, connecting its past to the present by showcasing the vitality that exists in composition, scholarship and performance. And rather than just allowing the contemporary composers to flounder in the wake of Mozart’s genius, his performances are as committed and his liner notes address them as seriously as K191 (with deft use of track numbers to point out salient aspects).

“With the efficacious support of violinist and leader Mayumi Seiler, The Seiler Strings and other invited musicians, Sweeney’s lambent timbre is as much an advocate for his new edition of the Mozart concerto as his solid musicological work, bolstered by well-reasoned use of contemporary sources. Sweeney glides through the piece with stunning suppleness, but his virtuosity is always self-effacing. While he has not refashioned this work as a flashier vehicle for the basson – his cadenzas, embellishments and lead-ins exceptionally match the spirit of the concerto – his research into textual authenticity does not drain energy and spontaneity from his performance.

“None of the other works, all commissioned by Sweeney, share the economy and brilliance of the Mozart, but there is drama in Mozetich’s variegated Concerto, repose in Sharman’s quiet At Dusk and poignancy in Welsh’s nostalgic Serenade. The latter has marvellous harp passagework by Erica Goodman complementing sensuous harmonies.”

Andrew Druckenbrod
- The Gramophone -
June 2005


“As a professional bassoonist I am much impressed by this fine CD. The Mozart Concerto is undoubtedly the highlight of this album. However the ‘Beyond’ stage is well represented by three contemporary works by [two] Canadian artists [and one American]. These works give Sweeney a chance to shine, with his fine mastery, musicianship and technique, on an instrument which is very difficult to master.

“The Mozart bassoon concerto was written in 1774 and is the major work of the bassoon repertoire. The first movement – Allegro – is in standard sonata form. Here Sweeney displays his fine technique by adding embellishments. Would Mozart have approved? I don’t know. However they work very well here. … fine technique in the upper register which is renowned for its difficulty… Sweeney’s articulation is also superb in the very difficult tongued passages. The cadenza is particularly well executed. Although less technically demanding, the second movement – Andante ma Adagio – offers a good example of fine lyrical playing by Sweeney. This is a very enjoyable recording by Sweeney and one of the best I have heard for a long while.

“Marjan Mozetich is a contemporary Canadian composer as [is] Rodney Sharman… Mozetich’s Concerto for bassoon, string orchestra and marimba… is a virtuosic romantic post-modern work which was composed [through] a close collaboration between the composer and Sweeney. The music is beautiful, exploring the lower register of the bassoon… Mozetich was particularly inspired by the bassoon concertos of Vivaldi and uses the marimba in place of the harpsichord continuo. However there are supreme high note passages and a touch of Minimalism towards the end. This adds enjoyment to the whole piece which rightly deserves to become a standard of the bassoon repertoire.

“Composed in a Modernist idiom, [Rodney Sharman’s] ‘At Dusk’ explores the atonal world of the bassoon with its huge range and warm, dark, plaintive soul. … beautifully played

“The final work on the album is [American composer] Michael Welsh’s ‘Serenade’. This piece draws on various forms of the Serenade throughout the centuries. Welsh again displays a great knowledge of the various tonal possibilities of the bassoon. Captivating and haunting throughout, displaying fine technique and mastery, with exquisite tonal colours. I can’t stop listening to this track which is enhanced by some gorgeous harp playing by Erica Goodman.

“This CD is a must for all bassoon enthusiasts. Superb playing throughout and a fine rendition of the Mozart concerto. How wonderful to see the bassoon being used by contemporary composers. Jazz on the bassoon does not work, but fine examples of modern playing such as this certainly do.”

Lynda Baker
- -
December 2007
complete review


“... [The] bassoon is definitely an instrument to be taken seriously in the hands of Michael Sweeney, principal bassoonist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, whose new recording of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto is not only handsomely played but unique in employing a new edition devised by Sweeney himself, correcting errors and reducing the number of accompanying players to the chamber dimensions the composer sometimes employed during his Salzburg years (he was only 18 when he composed the music). Sweeney’s scholarly accompanying notes reflect the intelligence and care that have obviously gone into this project, with the playing of the Toronto-based Seiler Strings, led by Mayumi Siler, adding to its distinction. To round out the program, Sweeney joins the Seiler Strings in performances of three works of recent years, two of them – Marjan Mozetich’s Concerto for Bassoon with Strings and Marimba (Graham Hargrove on the latter instrument) and Michael Welsh’s Serenade commissioned by him and the third, Rodney Sharman’s At Dusk, a re-orchestration of a piece originally part of a larger work for voices and orchestra. Highly recommended ...”

William Littler
- The Toronto Star -
June 2005


“Throughout the CD, one cannot help but be enchanted by the sheer lyrical expressiveness and effortless technical skill of Sweeney’s playing. The Seiler Strings Chamber Orchestra … is elegant, stylish and intimately attuned to the soloist’s interpretive point of view. The recorded sound is clear and detailed, with a nicely balanced perspective for the listener to assimilate each piece as a whole.”

Performance: [5 stars]
Sound: [4 stars]

Robert Jordan
- Opus magazine -
Summer 2005


“This is quite a package.

“In this program Mr Sweeney is pointing out the bassoon’s ability to transcend the musical line that composers have assigned to it. The Mozetich exemplifies the kind of insistent and pleading melody that seems to be larger than the bassoon – the kind of role bassoonists want to play but are seldom given the opportunity. And the changes in the Mozart add ... to the bassoon’s ability to expand the power of the music. This is indeed a recording that all music lovers should buy.

“It epitomizes the consummation of talent, inquiry, and development.”

David Schwartz
- American Record Guide -
/February 2005


“Canadian/American bassoonist Michael Sweeney gives us in [mozart and well beyond] what he considers to be four premiere performances of new and renewed works for bassoon and orchestra.

“I like everything about this CD – from the musical selections, which are four wonderful ‘new’ pieces of music; to the excellent program notes in French and English; to even the beautiful design of the program book, featuring a reproduction of the famous painting of bassoon virtuoso Felix Rheiner painted in 1774, (the year Mozart supposedly composed the Concerto) by painter Peter Jakob Horemans (1700-1776), followed by a nice portrait of Michael Sweeney replicating Rheiner’s famous pose with his bassoon and reed on the back cover – a lovely touch.

“I strongly recommend this wonderful CD to all of you.
Bravo to Michael, who has created a true work of art in so many, many ways!”

Ronald Klimko
- The Double Reed -
Quarterly Journal of the International Double Reed Society
Vol. 27, No. 3


« ... Michael Sweeney, premier basson de l’Orchestre symphonique de Toronto depuis 1989, [qui] poursuit [également] une carrière de soliste, [a lancé] un disque de musique basson que je trouve extrêmement intéressant.

« Un programme magnifique : Mozart et trois compositeurs contemporains qui célèbrent les sonorités du basson. Bravo à l’initiative de Michael Sweeney ! ... Et toutes ces pièces sont un très bel hommage à la sonorité du basson. C’est vraiment un disque fait par quelqu’un qui adore le basson et qui en joue magnifiquement aussi.

« Et les cordes, je vous le signale, sont excellentes, l’ensemble à cordes c’est le Seiler Strings de Toronto ...

« [Ce CD] a une très belle qualité sonore, je trouve ... »

- SRC : « Espace Musique » - (Sylvia L'Écuyer, animatrice)



“... all strong material, nicely chosen, performed and recorded. All the pieces [from mozart and well beyond] illustrate the expressive capabilities and qualities of the bassoon...”

- CBC: "Sound Advice" - (Rick Phillips, host)


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