The British Double Bass Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
A Little Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra (1973) [14:26] Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907-1994)
Music for Double Bass and Piano (1970) [7:06] Thomas PITFIELD (1903-1999)
Sonatina (1974) [8:25] Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Introduction and Allegro (1971) [7:12] David ELLIS (b. 1933)
Sonata for Unaccompanied Double Bass op.42 (1978) [6:07] John WALTON (b. 1947) A Deep Song (1969) [3:52] Alan BUSH (1900-1995)
Meditation and Scherzo op. 93 no. 1, 2 (1964, 1978) [5:23; 6:07] John McCABE (b. 1939)
Pueblo for Solo Double Bass (1986) [11:00] Elisabeth LUTYENS (1906-1983) The Tides of Time op. 75 (1969) [7:11] Alfred REYNOLDS (1884-1969)
Hornpipe (1927) [2:18]
Leon Bosch (double bass)
Sung-Suk Kang (piano); I Musicanti
rec. no details given. MERIDIAN CDE84550 [79:13]
you run from Gordon Jacob to Elizabeth Lutyens you’re going
to cover quite some stylistic ground. Add the fact that
all these works feature that apparently cumbersome beast,
the double bass, and you might reasonably wonder what you’ve
let yourself in for. Two very good counter arguments eagerly
present themselves; firstly Leon Bosch, the double bass
player, whose feats of virtuosity would have made the shades
of Koussevitzky and Eugene Cruft positively blanch in astonishment.
And the second is frequent onlie begetter of a number
of these works, Rodney Slatford, who also contributes mightily
to the sleeve notes. And let’s add the third and most obvious
reason, the variety of the repertoire and its strength.
True not everything is of equal strength but there’s plenty
to excite and intrigue and in performances as awesomely
assured as these you know you are in safe hands.
start with an odd man out. Gordon Jacob’s A Little Concerto
was composed in 1973 for Double Bass and Orchestra. So
this is the only time we hear the bass accompanied by a
small band – here I Musicanti. Elsewhere it’s just down
to Sung-Suk Kang. Jacob ensures that folkloric blood courses
through the veins of the first movement, that the central
movement is a rather beautiful, touching, slightly grave
utterance, and that the finale registers with avuncular
charm. The engineers have closed miked the band so Jacob’s
frolicsome writing registers with maximal impact.
piece opens with some seesawing, frankly bilious glissandi.
These in turn lead to thrumming pizzicati and a quizzical
piano response. Maconchy writes splendidly of sonority
and space and closes the arc with a return to now less-pronounced
glissandos. Thomas Pitfield was not the chap for Maconchy’s
brand of modernism, though he was her elder by four years.
His Sonatina is characteristically light hearted with a
folk song Quodlibet as a central movement. But best of
all is the finale where the piano leads, only to be cut
across by the bass and an ensuing larky stroll between
the two. Lennox Berkeley’s Introduction and Allegro moves
from austerity to a rather attractive, slightly wan lyricism;
it’s a work of conversational ease and no striving for
effect, and one that avoids greyness entirely successfully.
Sonata by David Ellis was written in 1978 and it blends
fierceness with reflectiveness; I’m sure it can’t be coincidental
that some of the writing reminds me of cello passages in
Brahms’ Double Concerto. John Walton’s piece is very different,
a really charming song lasting less than four minutes. Alan
Bush contributes two pieces; the Meditation is a Britten
Lachrymae outtake and far preferable to the nondescript
Scherzo about which I can find nothing worthwhile to write.
McCabe’s Pueblo is, by contrast, a real piece of music
and written for Bosch in 1986. The angular chill summons
up a frozen landscape. Does the higher register writing
at 9:20 suggest calls across the ice? This desert ice scene
has a hypnotic allure. Lutyens’s piece is an exercise in
introspection and texture and it’s juxtaposed with the
last item, Alfred Reynolds’ saucy 1927 Hornpipe – someone
had a sense of humour to put these two together.
marks to all involved in this enterprise even when the
works – relatively few – fail to impress. Bosch should
be encouraged in his quest.
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