Joel Quarrington

Garden Scene

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Double bassist Joel Quarrington's 2009 release on the Analekta label is entitled Garden Scene. The title comes from the opening piece on the program, a section of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's 1920 incidental music to the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Though it began as an orchestral work, was later transcribed for violin and piano, and ultimately reworked by Quarrington for double bass and piano, listeners unfamiliar with the piece will easily be convinced that Korngold wrote it with the double bass in mind. Korngold's velvety, lyrical style perfectly matches Quarrington's approach to his instrument, which once again proves that the deepest member of the string family need not be clumsy. Quarrington programs several other pieces that focus on the legato, melodic possibilities of his instrument, including the popular and sentimental Bottesini Elegy in D and the Prelude and Intermezzo (Opp. 32 and 9, respectively) of Reinhold Glière. The J.C. Bach Concerto (actually written by Henri Casadesus) offers listeners a change of pace, the third movement of which demonstrates Quarrington's considerable right-arm technique as he deftly articulates all of the rapid passages as easily as if he were playing it on the concerto's originally intended viola. While all of these works are certainly engaging and satisfying, Quarrington saves what may be the best for last: Mieczyslaw Weinberg's Sonata for Solo Contrabass, Op. 108. It is refreshing to hear the bass by itself, unencumbered by the need to project over a piano. In this very Shostakovich-like composition, Quarrington is able to demonstrate his full range of impressive tone color, precise left-hand technique, and keen musical insight.

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