"Masahito Tanaka, Magnificent Bassoonist"
Eva Weisse

One remarkable aspect in the past music world of 10-15 years is the revival of the wood-winds as a solo instrument. From the time after the "Romantic Virtuosi", solo performances at concerts were mostly the Piano and the Violin. The wood-winds always had to remain in the shadows of these instruments.

Advancement in technique was one big reason this revival became possible but at same time, people started to prefer the lush and full-blown tonalities of late-romantic pieces. The colorful affluent sound of the winds became used to the ear which also helped this aspect.

The Flute held the leadership as the solo in the wood-wind world but the Bassoon was not accepted as a solo instrument until recently. And as it is often called the "clown of the orchestra", it was thought as an instrument that was best for performing amusing low sounds. But as Marcel Moyse said, "the time has long passed in prototyping an instrument's character with a conventional mind", With much improved playing-technique of the preasent, the Bassoon became a solo instrument with affluent expression.

Masahito Tanaka is one of most virtuosic Bassoonists who can bring out all the possibilities of the Bassoon, with his pyrotechnics, noble and beautiful tone, big dynamic range and great compass which spans more than 4-octaves.

He treats his instrument as an extension of the human throat, phrasing with a great singer's flexibility. He is the player who could do for the Bassoon what Rampal has done for the Flute.

We can already hear the wonderful performance of him through his albums. When listening to his "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and "The Carnival of Venice", both originally flute repertorie, one thinks the Bassoon is capable of anything.

- Click on photo, so details will be displayed -

"... the artist, Masahito TANAKA, is one of the best Bassoonists that I have heard. Nothing is missing: an astounding technical mastery, a sound of exceptional homogeneity, an expressivity void of vain sentimentality allow him to play brilliantly and with good taste pages that otherwise could easily slip down to vulgarity."
Edouard Mousset (HARMONIE-OPERA 12/1982) France
"... they are played so musically by this most virtuosic Japanese Bassoonists... Tanaka is such a fine musician that he can imbue the daunting pyrotechnics with a sensitivity of phrasing and balance that transcends the printed score."
Barbara Jahn(Hi-Fi News 2/1983)England
"... a highly coloured portrait of the modern Bassoon. Admire the polychromy of its brilliant technique, the stunning velocity of which it is capable... When listening to this record, one thinks that the Symphony Orchestra of the Belgian National Opera is lucky to have Masahito Tanaka as Solo Bassoon."
Michel Debrocq(Le Monde de la Musique 1984)France
These Japanese players are well attuned to the German Romantic language of all this music, ... Good tone and splendid agility from Tanaka.
J.D.W.(Fanfare 1983) U.S.A
"... like R-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble Bee, one minute and three seconds of vertiginous velocity on the part of Masahito TANAKA. It is simply incredible.. Tanaka is an artist who knows how to make his bassoon sing, conferring it the flexibility of the human voice and reaching even the highest-C ( which is one octave from SACRE's C )."
Alice Libert(Le Derniere Heure 1984) Belgium
"... brilliant passage-work, including some hairraising octaveunison fireworks executed here with astonishing precision by the two wind players... The Bassoonist ( who is principal in the orchestra at La Monnaie) is an outstanding player."
"... his performances of the eight-avant-grade pieces are excellnt and he made a splendid performance of the Contemporary technics and charm of the wood-wind instrument by making it possible through his pursuit. ...Tanaka showed his talent as a superb technician by playing Bernaud's hairraisingly difficult piece... in Fontyn's piece, his wonderfull skill of glissando was shown... Not only his technique but his affluent talent in music was seen..."
Masaru Kawasaki (Musical Art 1/1987) Japan

The excellent Japanese group Trio Calamus has just come out with a classy little collection of atmospheric short pieces. Having exhausted much of the repertoire for flute, bassoon and piano on their debut album (Pavane ADW 7176), Nocturne features nine solo works as well as five brief trios.

Much of the material presented here is arranged from other versions (Gounods Ave Maria and the Offenbach Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffmann for trio, the Rachmaninoff Vocalise for bassoon, etc.) and all of the well-chosen selections share a languid, dreamy evening feeling. Bravo, Trio Calamus (whose name is Latin for "reed," by the way) for another well-turned recording. But when will we hear your version of the Beethoven Trio?

(The Double Reed, ) U.S.A
Masahito Tanaka is a young Japanese bassoonist who, after playing in the U.S. and in Europe, is now a principal with the New Japan Philharmonic in Tokyo. Besides playing with the Trio Calamus he has also recorded two collections of 19th century salon music for Pavane (selections from these two LPs have been rereleased as Romantische Fagottwerke, Astoria CD DP 87007).

Tanaka shows us a completely different side of his bassoon character here in this assortment of works by the young Japanese composers Ozaki, Kaneta, Kaneda, Sumi, Uchikawa and Ban. Filled with contemporary techniques such as glissandi, multiphonics, tongue pizzicati and pitch bending, these works have more in common with the stress of modem urban Japan than with the serene, more traditional sound of composers like Takemitsu. Tanaka handles it all with facility and an attractive sound.

(The Double Reed, Vol. 12, No. 2 Fall 1989) U.S.A
Although Masahito Tanaka learns in a Boston and Amsterdam and he plays an active part internationally now, he becomes clear in the place where it listened to even three music that it is the bassoon player surely located in the top class in the world at the beginning of this CD "a bassoon fantasia."---The preeminent art and the preeminent song which he so far has will become clear to anyone's ear. And if the melody of Chopin maximum beauty and the etude (work 25-7) in C sharp minor are splendidly played by the intonation of a bassoon no one but delicate thick moreover following it, it will be drawn in the world of this disk still deeply.---The attitude which tackles the beauty of music from the front, without hardly playing cheap tricks although it is a recital in an arrangement thing is fresh.There is no other way but for "since it is a bassoon, such emotion can be brewed", and having made it feel to say as for the performance.
Jirou Hamada (Record Art 2/1993) Japan
Masahito Tanaka is the greatest Bassoon virtuoso when in his performance to us, Europeans on the spiritual world of the Far East and the meditative atmosphere as seen in Isang Yun's piece. His affluent musicality and breathtaking pyrotechnique is highly effective in not only Oriental pieces but also in sonatas by Saint-Saens and Hindemith, Romantic pieces in the 19th century and also in transcriptions of Flute repertoire. His flexibility and intelligence to cope with any style is truely impressive.
Gerhard Patzig (Fono Forum 1992) Germany
Two new masters of the German system bassoon, Dag Jensen, and now Masahito Tanaka have come out with recordings of some of the "classical" bassoon pieces of the French literature. And in both cases they are solid winners! Here Tanaka plays standards like the Saint- Saens Sonate, op. 168; the Noel- Gallon Recit et Allegro; and the Dutilleux Sarabande et Cortege. But to this he adds the less often played and technically very challenging Variations sur un theme de Paginini (24th Caprice) pour Basson seul by the great French bassoonist Maurice Allard (b. 1923), as well as the Sonatine pour Flute et Basson (1962) by Pierre Gabaye (b. 1930), and the lovely Pastorales de Noel (1943) for flute, bassoon and harp by Andre Jolivet (1905- 1974).

It is absolutely criminal how easy Tanaka, with his incredible technique, makes the chromatic run up to the high e2 (diminuendo!) sound! Similarly the way he knocks out the very difficult passages in the Paganini/ Allard is positively spellbinding (not to mention the high f2 in the Dutilleux!) I have always admired him in the past for his technique and control. But with this CD you can add beauty of tone and style as well. This is a wonderful recording all around. I was really taken with the beauty of his performance of the Noel- Gallon - warm, luscious, completely delicate and controlled. The recording technique is also first- rate. The entire CD has excellent balance between bassoon and piano, and a definite "concert" presence to the sound. Tanaka, who has been principal bassoon of the Royal Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo, since 1996, may not be that well known in the West. If you are unfamiliar with his artistry, this will be a perfect first album for you to thoroughly enjoy. He is truly one of the bassoon masters of our era!

(The Double Reed VOL. 20, NO. 2, 1997)U.S.A
I believe this CD is only available in Japan at the present. It is a pity, because it is another beauty by this master- bassoonist! The CD is all transcriptions of well known compositionssomething that I am often not convinced totally works. But Tanaka makes a believer out of me. His Schubert Arpeggione sounds like Schubert MUST have written it for the bassoon- it is so convincing! All I can say is WOW! Somehow he makes all that figuration sound right on the bassoon and not just a bunch of string filigree! The other works on the CD: the Schumann Fantasiestucke, Op. 73; the Mendelssohn Lied ohne Worte, Op. 109; and the Brahms Sonata in E flat Major, Op. 120- 2; are also played with beautiful romantic elan and expression.
As with the previous CD, the balance and presence are superb! It sounds like you are sitting in the best seat in a concert hall listening to these performers. With the amazing difference one can find between recordings of bassoonists, it would be a wonderful thing if recording and sound engineers like Yukio Kojima and Tagato Yanagisawa, who are responsible for this and the previous recording would reveal their "secrets" to other aspiring bassoon recording artists! Both these discs could serve as landmark examples!
( The Double Reed VOL. 20, NO. 2, 1997) U.S.A
This is an amazing recording. Master bassoonist Masahito Tanaka has taken his incredible talent to an all-new level. Here he has recorded the Six Devienne Sonatas using an ORIGINAL Jean-Nicholas Savary (Savary-Jeune) basson (Paris, 1820) !
The performances are excellent on many levels. So excellent is his ability on this historical insturment that, except for an occasional muffled-sounding tone or two, one quickly forgets that he is playing on a period instrument. His tone, technique, phrasing, dynamics are all beautifully handled. Despite the age of this instrument it sounds wonderfully 'modern' in his deft hands!
For lovers of period instruments you must have this recording. There is a tendency to think that given the "shortcomings" technically of many period insturments-the performances on them might have lacked the 'finesse' of a modern performance. This CD by Tanaka shows clearly that, in the hands of a true artist, these instruments still have the capability of moving the spirit and inspiring even the 'jaded' modern listener! Bravo, Tanaka!! Highest marks for an excellent CD!
(The Double Reed Vol.22No.3 1999) U.S.A