Thomas Martin

Bottesini: Fantasia "La Sonnambula"

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The music of Giovanni Bottesini, the "Paganini of the double bass," has been subjected to a multi-disc examination by the indefatigable Naxos label. Players of the instrument may well want the entire series, but the present release may make a good choice for the general listener who wants just one. Its advantage is the variety of material, nicely arranged so as to be evocative of a concert spectacle of Bottesini's time. A nineteenth century concert would often include vocal as well as instrumental elements, and this disc includes some of Bottesini's songs. Ci divide l'ocean (track 9) is an attractive item still well known in Italy, and the presence of the songs serves to point up the vocal quality of Bottesini's melodic lines, nicely set off against passages in which the instrument is growling or whistling at its registral extremes. The double bass pieces themselves are a varied group, with the bow-shredding virtuosity reserved for last in the Introduzione et Variazioni sul "Carnaval de Venise." Bach's Air on a G string is here, rechristened a Meditazione, and there's a nifty evocation of Chopin, an operatic potpourri, variations, and several flat-out gorgeous tunes. Bassist Thomas Martin is equal to the challenges Bottesini throws at him, and the studio sound is above average. Booklet notes are in English only; song texts are given in Italian and English.

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