As the recording date suggests, this CD is a re-issue, originally
released by Italian label Rivo Alto in 1994. Newton have simply
given the thing a cosmetic facelift, with a fresh cover and,
more importantly, new notes.
A fair amount of Bottesini's substantial output for the
double bass is now available on CD. Last year, for example,
Dynamic released separate discs of his String Quartets (review)
and three of his concertante works (review).
Yet Dynamic lag a long way behind Naxos - distributors for Newton
Classics incidentally - who in recent years have been building
up their own-label 'Bottesini Collection', featuring
a variety of double bassists. There are five volumes so far
to 570400, and 8.572284, review),
plus another two outside the official 'Collection'
featuring double bass with piano (vol.1 = 8.554002, vol.2 =
The brief Elegy in D and the Reverie both appear on volume 1,
but otherwise Bottesini fans can snap up the lot without fear
Indeed, anyone wishing to listen to the "Paganini of the
double-bass" - a path that all music-lovers should venture
down without hesitation - has plenty of choice these days. The
works in this attractive recital by Italian soloist and accompanist
Stefano Sciascia and David Giovanni Leonardi are not among Bottesinii's
most significant, it must be said - this is mainly a selection
of salon-style pieces written primarily for paying punters,
with three short original works slotted in among fantasies and
variations on big opera hits of the period. Yet a contemporary
account of Bottesini's playing likened his tone to "a
hundred nightingales caged in his double-bass", and there
can be no doubt that he possessed an unerring ear for enchanting
melody - or for doing spectacular things on the double bass
with other people's enchanting melodies!
Bottesini takes full advantage of the bel canto tunefulness
of his source material in the Fantasies and Variations, giving
audiences not only familiar music from the popular operas, but
also stunning contrabass virtuosity. However, Bottesini never
resorts to vulgarity - graceful flowing lyricism always seems
uppermost in his music, rather than a more Paganinian long-haired
diabolism. In fact, in the Elegia and RÍverie he shows another
side of his instrument: its ability to give the cello a run
for its money when it comes to lush, wistful nostalgia.
Stefano Sciascia's performance on what at the time was
his debut CD is delightful, considerably more elegant than his
he can be seen frolicking on the beach with a double bass, as
only an Italian can get away with! His playing is full of character,
warmth and wit, and not without frequent heroics as he scales
the same heights and plumbs the same depths that Bottesini did
before him. Leonardi's piano, as might be expected, has
little to do by comparison - the odd dramatic introduction apart,
it is usually restricted to an almost continuo-like role - but
Leonardi keeps his ear in well nonetheless.
Audio quality is good, although the balance is slightly lopsided,
with the double bass centrally placed but the piano picked up
chiefly in the left channel. Sciascia's breathing can
occasionally be heard, but the intrusion is negligible.
The booklet notes are by Fiona Palmer, biographer of the earlier
Italian double bass wizard, Domenico Dragonetti, and are informative
and reasonably well written - with a minor tendency towards
wordiness and business language. They are translated into French
and German. Anyone wanting to learn more about the two soloists
must look elsewhere - the booklet has nary a word on them.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk