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Meridian Records



Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821-1889)
The Virtuoso Double Bass: Elegy; Tarantella; Romanza Patetica (Mélodie); Gavotta; Reverie; Meditazione (Aria di Bach); Fantasie Sonnambula; Romanza Drammatica (Elégie); Adagio par Ernst; Capriccio di Bravura.
Leon Bosch (double bass); Sung-Suk Kang (piano)
rec. no details given.
MERIDIAN CDE 84544 [64:55]


These days Bottesini manages a footnote as an almost forgotten double-bassist. It's hard being on the edge of oblivion as a virtuoso of one of the least glamorous and most buffoonish of instruments. The instrument’s nobility, rather like that of the tuba, is often left in the shadows in favour of its buffoon image. As for the composer, Bottesini conducted the premiere of Aida and was also an accomplished writer; so we are reminded by Andrew Green's very personal liner note. This note moves enthrallingly between Bottesini and Bosch - who once wrote for this site - and the story of how this CD came to be made.  Much of what we read is biographical about Bosch. It reads very well but I would have liked to read more about Bottesini as well. 

As to the music the notes tell us little so we are left with the testimony of our ears. After an Elegy distinctive for its noble legato comes an assertive and at times surprisingly Beethovenian Tarantella in much the same language as the Romanza Drammatica - which makes play with the ostinato of the Moonlight Sonata. The Romanza Patetica has a grave mien for which the pointed little Gavotta provides a nicely weighted contrast. The suitable dreamy-sombre Reverie recalls similar works for cello and piano by Glazunov and Frank Bridge. The Meditazione deploys Bach's famous Air on a G string here taken at a clip that defies lassitude and emphasises that this is a practically singable aria. The Fantasie Sonnambula is a florid bel canto fantasy around themes from the Bellini opera. One can well understand the dedication that led Bosch to track down Sung-Suk Kang over the internet when you hear the velvet touch she brings to the piano in the Adagio par Ernst. As for Bosch his playing delivers on his own words:  “It's the performers solemn duty  to ... express that unique personal understanding (of the composer's intentions) as if one's very life depended upon it. The disc ends in style with the Capriccio di Bravura. The recorded balance favours the piano ever so slightly.

This is not just for double bass fanciers who go after every disc of the instrument but also  for those who fancy the instrumental bel canto and salon repertoire regardless of instrument. Everyone will find  considerable pleasure in the sincere and highly accomplished playing here on display. I shall be watching out to review Bosch and Meridian's promised recital of English music for the double bass.

Rob Barnett 




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