François Devienne was a French bassoonist, flautist and composer of the second half of the eighteenth century. He wrote a huge amount of music, mostly featuring wind instruments. His successful career as a performer found him becoming principal bassoon of the Paris Opera in 1780, and being employed thereafter by Cardinal de Rohan as a chamber musician. Later in life, he became Professor of Flute at the Paris Conservatoire, composed a particularly successful opera, ‘Les Visitandines’, and wrote a highly influential treatise on playing the flute. After a nervous breakdown he was admitted to a mental hospital, where he died in 1803.
These six sonatas are delightful, undemanding little pieces. They have none of the ingenuity or sophistication to be found in the music of his contemporaries, Haydn or Mozart, but that is unfairly to compare this music with some of the greatest ever written. What these pieces do have is a thorough understanding of the bassoon, as well as a great, tangible affection for its character. They are written out, as the title suggests, as simply solo plus bass line, which has, correctly in my view, been realised in this recording as a bass line for 'cello, with a harpsichord filling out the implied harmonies.