Whether you call it a bull fiddle, a bass fiddle, a contrabass, a bass viol, a string bass, a double bass, or just a bass; that giant-sized stringed instrument has been providing the bottom end of music for centuries. But (picking one of the above) the double bass has rarely been thought of as a solo or lead instrument. Rick Stotijn, principle double bass of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra puts the big guy out in the spotlight with two very fine albums.
First, Basso Bailando, which features works by Astor Piazzolla, Nino Rota, and Manuel de Falla. The Piazaolla and Falla pieces are special arrangements, but the Rota was written for double bass and orchestra. For me the highlight is Falla’s “Siete Canciones Polulares Espanolas”, for which Stotijn is joined by the extraordinary harpist, Lavinia Meijer. What’s remarkable is that the double bass takes the lead with the harp accompanying! Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” features violinist Marijn van Prooijen, but it is the bass which is the centerpiece! Delightful!
Next Rick Stotijn’s wonderful Capriccio de Bravura, works by Giovanni Bottesini, a composer, conductor, and premier double bass player in the 19th century. Stotijn is accompanied by Candida Thompsons Amsterdam Sinfonietta for three of the works, and on two of the others by just a piano and a wonderful mezzo soprano who just happens to be his sister, Christianne Stotijn. Again, this is delightful, beautiful music. Please listen to the samples to hear what wonderful albums these are! If you expect cartoonish, plodding bull fiddle music, you will be surprised!
From the bass to the cello! Manuel de Falla’s Suite is also a highlight of Contrasts In Concert with Roger Drinkall, Cello, and Dian Baker, piano. Besides the Falla are pieces by Faure, Kodaly, and Dvorak. There’s some wonderful music-making here, exquisitely captured by Wilson Audiophile Recordings!
Next in line— the violin! In this case, the violin of Salvatore Accardo in two works for violin and chamber orchestra. As Leonard Bernstein’s 100th anniversary is being recognized all over the world, it’s good that we have this sparkling rendition of Bernstein’s “Serenade for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp, and Percussion (after Plato’s “Symposium”)” (1954). It’s essentially a five movement violin concerto. Accardo is the soloist and conducts, successfully capturing the Bernstein rhythms, and the glorious melodies and drama which will remind you of parts of Bernstein’s symphonies and music for the theater.
Krzysztof Penderecki’s more somber “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra” is also included, with Accardo as soloist. Penderecki himself is conducting. I am really glad I found this one! And by the way, Fone’s DSD transference of the original analog is flawless. I’ve been spending a lot of time with this album lately.
Finally— The Guitar! Ricardo Gallen is a superb guitarist, but I’ve never heard him better than in Fernando Sor– Guitar Sonatas. Fernando Sor’s work seems undervalued to me. It also seems more modern than the early 1800’s. You can download the booklet that comes with this album for some very interesting reading. But whether you do or not, be sure to listen to the samples of this beautifully recorded set. Very highly recommended!