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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Sonata a quattro No.1 in G major [13.06]
Sonata a quattro No.2 in A major [13.12]
Sonata a quattro No.3 in C major [12.01]
Sonata a quattro No.4 in B flat major [15.06]
Sonata a quattro No.5 in E flat major [14.47]
Sonata a quattro No.6 in D major [15.51]
Duetto for Cello and Double-bass in D major [16.42]
Un mot à Paganini, élégie for Violin and Piano [8.49]
Une larme for Cello and Piano (arr. for Double-bass and Piano) [2.33]
Giovanni BOTTESINI (1821-1889)
Gran Duo Concertante for two Double-basses and Orchestra, (arr. for Violin, Double-bass and Strings by Camillo Sivori) [18.55]
Salvatore Accardo (violin), Sylvie Gazeau (violin), Alain Meunier (cello), Franco Petracci (double-bass), Bruno Canino (piano) (Rossini)
rec. Musica Théâtre, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 21-27 October 1978
Luciano Vicari (violin), Lucio Buccarella (double-bass), I Musici (Bottesini)
rec.Salle des Remparts, La-Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, 10-15 September 1971
ELOQUENCE 482 5103 [68.49 + 63.22]

Rossini started the life of a musician as an expert triangle player at the age of six, a harpsichordist by the age of 9 and able to play the violin, cello, piano and horn by the time he wrote these six sonatas at the grand old age of 12. They are amongst the more startling examples of precocity in a period that had included the famously precocious Mozart and, entirely within Rossini's own lifetime, Mendelssohn. The players he had available to him were two violinists, a cellist and a double-bassist, so that was how he scored these eighteen lively and tuneful movements. They are not merely skillful, they include the earliest example of a Rossini 'storm' in the final movement of No.6, a lovely andante in No.3 and some sul ponticello effects in No.5. The mature Rossini was a touch embarrassed by these early works and refers to the 'doggish' playing to which they were subjected, including by himself - though less doggish, apparently, in his case. The remainder are from his later years when he had officially retired from composition, including a lovely élégie for his friend Paganini. There is lots more interesting information in Tully Potter's exemplary notes in which he also considers these actual performances, noting that these are possibly unique in sticking to Rossini's original instrumentation rather than the more usual string orchestra approach.

It must be said that Salvatore Accardo is not a period violinist in the modern sense (is that an oxymoron?) and he plays these pieces with lyrical tone and no attempt to control his vibrato. That being so, he is still a great violinist and he plays everything as if it matters. His fellow players play with similar gusto and a special note has to be made of the double-bassists, both of them, who play beautifully as if their instrument is merely a big cello. The curious Grand Duo by Bottesini, a bassist and opera composer, is analogous to Strauss' Don Quixote in using solo strings and orchestra to tell a story. It includes solos, cadenzas, confrontations and duets as if the violin and double-bass are characters. A most entertaining piece albeit not performed as Bottesini expected for two basses but in the conventional arrangement, by a pupil of Paganini, for violin and bass. A check in the catalogue suggests no one has recorded it with two basses yet. Really?

The sonatas and the Bottesini are beautifully recorded, the duos less so, sounding very left-right and no centre. Eloquence are to be congratulated for thinking to reissue this pair of discs after a long absence from the catalogue and they deserve to sell a lot of copies. Delightful!

Dave Billinge



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