Garden Scene
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Much Ado About Nothing – Suite (1918; arranged for violin and piano 1920) – Garden Scene [5:22]
Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821-1889)
Elegy in D major [4:40]
Henri CASADESUS (1879-1947)
Concerto in G major – attributed by Casadesus to Johann Christian BACH (1735-1782) [13:40]
Reinhold GLIČRE (1875-1956)
Four Pieces for Contrabass and piano
Intermezzo Op.9 No.1 [3:22] and Tarantella Op.9 No.2 (1902) [3:44]
Praeludium Op.32 No.1 [3:44] and Scherzo Op.32 No.2 (1908) [4:23]
Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (Moisei VAINBERG) (1919-1996)
Sonata for solo contrabass Op.108 (1971) [17:51]
Joel Quarrington (double bass)
Andrew Burashko (piano)
rec. August 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto
ANALEKTA AN 2 9931 [56:53]
‘Garden Scene’ is a handy title but no more. It’s not descriptive of any fragrant contrabass programmatic machinations throughout the hour-long length of this CD. Still, miscellaneous affairs like this presumably need eye-catching handles.
In any case one is hardly likely to argue given the instrumental finesse displayed by master bassist Joel Quarrington. He and Andrew Burashko have constructed a convincing recital. It opens with the warmly quiescent charms of the Korngold of the disc’s title, moves on to a maestro of the bass repertoire, the great Bottesini, and then presents a centre-piece concerto in piano-reduced form. This is the notorious and amusing forgery perpetrated by Henri Casadesus whose ‘J.C. Bach’ work did the rounds as a Viola Concerto for many, many years. William Primrose recorded it in that form. It’s given suitably Old School treatment in this bass-and-piano version. Gličre provides some lyric and dance relief, before we plunge into the formal strictures of the Weinberg Sonata that ends the disc.
The Garden Scene derives from Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing. The burnished legato that Quarrington produces, his equalized scale and tonal subtlety – also the cellistic lightness he brings to it – begins the disc admirably. Bottesini only contributes the brief Elegy but it’s notable for what the performers do with it: variegated shading and nuance, precise articulation, and a bel canto imperative. The bassist displays prodigious feats of articulation, clarity and projection in the Casadesus-Bach where the lyricism in the slow movement is a focal point. Listen to the dynamics around the 4:25 mark in this movement to appreciate the full expressive potential of the big bull fiddle. There’s virtuosity galore in the finale, not least in the cadenza.
The quartet of Gličre morceaux derives from Opp. 9 and 32, written in the first decade of the twentieth century. The Praeludium is serious and lyrical whilst its opus mate Scherzo is commensurately jolly, but with a wistful B section. The Op.32 Tarantella is a fizzer, with an especially lovely second theme cantilena, and must have been an especially fine showpiece for Koussevitzky, who was the dedicatee of both sets. The notes don’t say much about Weinberg’s sonata. It was ‘prepared from a manuscript facsimile that was edited by the great bass virtuoso Rodion Azarkhin.’ The work dates from 1971 but was clearly never published during the composer’s lifetime. It’s in six concise movements. The opening is restless and unsettled, the first Allegretto mordant, the second an embodiment of a question mark in music (very uneasy), the Lento tense, and the final decidedly Shostakovich-imbued.
Lovers of the bass will find Quarrington on top form in this well recorded and intriguingly laid-out recital, and Burashko’s perceptive qualities ensure solid ensemble virtues.
Jonathan Woolf
Quarrington on top form in this well recorded and intriguingly laid-out recital ... see Full Review