Bottesini DBass 9996652

Déjà Review: this review was first published in October 2000 and the recording is still available.

Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889)
Double Bass Concerto in F sharp minor
Double Bass Concerto in B minor
Gran Duo Passione Amorosa
Boguslaw Furtok, Johannes Stähle (double basses)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Stephan Tetzlaff, Ulrich Edelmann
cpo 999 665-2 [53]

Known as ‘the Paganini of the double bass’, Bottesini raised the instrument to prominence through the virtuosity of his playing. Yet he was a more interesting figure still, a composer whose operas were held in high esteem, who was also a conductor of some significance. In the latter capacity his chief claim to fame is having conducted at the first performance of Verdi’s Aida.

The nature of the double bass will always make it an occasional rather than regular solo instrument, but these attractive concertos are far from oddities. There is real eloquence in the slower music, while virtuosity is never in short supply. But Bottesini left his music in less than clear editions, so that two of these three concertos are featured in orchestrations by others, including the soloist Boguslaw Furtok. They are highly effective orchestrations, however, so there is no need for complaint, save for the inadequacy of the accompanying note in explaining the situation about the individual pieces. There is plenty of material of Bottesini in general, but precious little about the music itself. That is a pity, and so is the discrepancy between the track information on the back of the disc and within the booklet (the latter is correct: there are ten tracks, not five).

The performances have fire and commitment, and eloquence when necessary. The double bass may conjure expectations of its unsuitability as a solo instrument, but hearing these warmly recorded performances will surely convince even the most sceptical of listeners.

Terry Barfoot

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