> Tarantella and Cappricio - Double bass [GPJ] : Classical Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Tarantella – Music for double-bass and piano
Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821-1889)

Fantasie on ‘La Sonnambula’ [8:59]

Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Une Larme pour Basse [3:01]

Fritz KREISLER (1875-1972)


Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Après un Rêve [3:29]

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Pièce en Forme de Habañera [3:23]


Rêverie [3:41]

Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)

Spring Song [2:25]


Romanza Patetica [7:31]

Serge KOUSSEVITSKY (1874-1951)

Valse Miniature [2:50]

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Vocalise [6:25]

Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)

Präludium op.32, no.1 [3:26]
Scherzo op.32, no.2 [4:44]
Intermezzo op.9, no.1 [3:18]
Tarantella op.9, no.2 [4:42]

Duncan McTier, double bass, Kathron Sturrock, piano
Recorded on 7th and 8th March 1989 at University of Surrey Music Dept.
BLACK BOX BBM 1004 [61:30]

Capriccio – Music for double-bass and piano
Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821-1889)

Capriccio di Bravura [9:05]

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Elegy in A minor op.24 [7:41]

Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Variations on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ op.66 [11:27]


Lied ohne Worte op.109 [5:01]

Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)

‘Mon coeur s’ouvre’ [3:52]

HANDEL (1685-1759)

‘Ombra mai fu’ [3:35]

Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)

Epigrams [9:16]


Elegy in D [5:59]


Requiebros [5:55]

Duncan McTier, double bass, Kathron Sturrock, piano
Recorded on 4th – 6th April 1996 at Conway Hall, London.
BLACK BOX BBM 1005 [61:51]

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Be honest; two CDs of nothing but double bass and piano doesn’t sound very exciting, does it? Well I tell you what; buy these discs IMMEDIATELY, and that’s an order! Otherwise you will be missing a unique and wonderful musical experience. Duncan McTier is simply one of the finest instrumentalists around anywhere at the moment; I didn’t just enjoy these discs, I loved every minute of them.

Bass players are a curious breed; I remember once surveying the bass section of the BBC Philharmonic (then the NSO) and noticing their socks, all vying to outdo one another with bright, disgusting colours, every player in the section a raving extrovert despite the reticent nature of his huge instrument. (In that particular bass department were two young men who were about to go off and form a little vocal ensemble which turned into something called the Kings Singers). The very act of wresting music out of the instrument’s vast unwieldy bulk seems to do something to the psyche of its exponents. Or maybe you have to be that way in the first place to succeed on the bass. (For further ‘enlightenment’ on this topic see Anthony Kemp’s deeply silly book ‘The Musical Temperament’!)

The wrong thing to do when bringing forth the bass as a soloist is to try to make it sound like a ’cello. McTier never falls into that trap, his tone always having a deliciously husky quality to it, that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for a ’cello, and both of these marvellous recordings allow us to be constantly aware of the sheer size of the instrument.

I won’t go on any more about the playing, for fear of gushing; but I ought to add that, in Kathron Sturrock, McTier has a perfectly matching partner. In many ways, her contribution is a model of all that an accompanist must aim for. When necessary, she can melt into the background completely to allow the bass centre stage. But when she has the musical spotlight, she plays in a compelling and entirely soloistic way.

Inevitably, a lot of the material consists of arrangements, and a great deal is light, insubstantial music. But it’s all worth hearing, and most of it very fine of its kind. And not once did I have that uncomfortable feeling that the bass was being pressed into performing music that didn’t suit it. Take one example; who on earth would have thought of transcribing Fauré’s glorious Après un rêve for bass (‘Tarantella’ track 4)? Sounds like a mad idea, but in the hands of McTier it works like a dream (forgive me). The same applies, to a slightly lesser degree perhaps, to the lovely Mendelssohn Song Without Words on ‘Capriccio’, track 4, the Ravel Habañera on ‘Tarantella’, track 10, or Saint-Saëns’ ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ from Samson et Dalila. Throughout all these, McTier simply allows us to bathe in the beauty of his tone, the musical suppleness of his and Sturrock’s phrasing, and the almost unbelievable perfection of his intonation. How rare to encounter playing that is so immaculate and yet so full of passion and intensity.

There are one or two more extended works, such as the highly entertaining Beethoven Variations, or Bottesini’s Capriccio et Barvura. Don’t dismiss Bottesini as just a bass virtuoso who managed to write a bit – he really knew how to compose, and his writing for the bass is, of course, quite wonderful. I particularly love the places, such as ‘Tarantella’ track 1, Bottesini’s Fantasie on ‘La Sonnambula’ , at 3:47, where McTier goes into harmonics, and the music acquires an unearthly, glassy quality. This happens quite often throughout the discs, and it’s as if the huge instrument is singing  falsetto!

My favourite track of all? ‘Capriccio’ track 2, Fauré’s famous Elegy. Never have I heard it sound better. McTier begins in a magnificent full-throated outpouring, then, for the repeat of the tragic melody, fines the tone down almost to a whisper – pure magic. But the discs are full of insightful, imaginative playing of this kind.

Both recordings are pretty well perfect in their engineering, though I marginally preferred the sound on ‘Tarantella’, recorded at the University of Surrey. To go back to the haranguing of my opening paragraph, if you’re not sure about the bass as a soloist, you must listen to this. If you do love the bass – well then, you probably already have done!

Gwyn Parry-Jones



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Fantasie on 'La Sonnambula'

Une Larme pour Basse


Apres un Reve

Piece en Forme de Habanera


Spring Song

Romanza Patetica

Valse Miniature







Cappriccio di Bravura


Variations on 'Ein Madchen oder Weibchen'

Lied ohne Worte

Aria 'Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix'

Aria 'Ombra mai fu'


Elegy in D


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