Wednesday 3 November 2021

The virtuosic and romantic double bass: Luis Cabrera's entrancing recital, Canto Interno on trptk

Cante Interno - Bottesini, Koussevitzky, Schumann, Franck; Luis Cabrera, Justyna Maj, Sylvia Huang; trptk

Cante Interno
- Bottesini, Koussevitzky, Schumann, Franck; Luis Cabrera, Justyna Maj, Sylvia Huang; trptk

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 3 November 2021 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Moving from virtuosity to romanticism, double bass player Luis Cabrera shows that his instrument is capable of great expressivity and wonderful variety in this truly engaging recital

Luis Cabrera is a Spanish double bass player who studied in Madrid and in London at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Rinat Ibragimov, a teacher who has had a great influence on him. Cabrera became principal double bass of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 20 in 2006. Since then he has also played as guest with a wide range of ensembles, from the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to Arcangelo, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the London Sinfonietta.

For Cante Interno from the trptk label, Luis Cabrera (double bass) is joined by Justyna Maj (piano) and Sylvia Huang (violin) for a recital which begins with Giovanni Bottesini and Serge Koussevitzky both writing for the double bass, and then moves to transcriptions of music by Robert Schumann and Cesar Franck.

We start with a pair of showpieces, Bottesini's Introduzione e Variazioni sul "Carnevale di Venezia" for double bass and piano, and Gran Duo Concertante for violin, double bass and piano. Bottesini combined the careers of double bass virtuoso, conductor and composer, and he was selected by Verdi to conduct the first performance of Aida in Cairo. His skill as a virtuoso on the double bass helped revolutionise the playing technique of his instrument. The two works on the disc that Cabrera plays are amongst Bottesini's best known, and the composer's favourites. Both are truly delightful, and such is Cabrera's skill that he makes you forget the simple logistical challenge of being so virtuosic on such a large instrument, the distances that his left hand has to travel. But the playing is not just virtuoso, it radiates enjoyment and delight in the music. 

Bottesini wrote the Gran Duo Concertante in 1880 for two double basses, though it is commonly heard in the transcription by Camillo Sivori for violin and double bass duo. Here Cabrera and Huang have great fun, bringing out the sense that this is an operatic scene full of virtuosic moments and frankly, whilst Bottesini might have been a younger contemporary of Verdi, musically he is far more akin to Rossini, but all we have to do is sit back and enjoy. The two soloists play with great flexibility, but all three performers keep the music moving so that we never feel they are dragging things out for virtuosic effect, and the running time is a whisker under 15 minutes which is just perfect.

With Serge Koussevitzky we move to another double bass player, composer and conductor, albeit one from the 20th century. His works for his own instrument include a concerto as well as the four pieces on this disc. They are very much salon music, delightful miniatures which show Koussevitzky writing expertly for his instrument as well as demonstrating that size does not matter when it comes to lightness of touch. The four pieces here, Deux Morceaux, Op. 1 (Andante and Valse miniature), Chanson Triste, Op. 2 and Humoreske Op. 4 were written in the late 19th century whilst Koussetvitzky was a double bass player in the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and becoming a noted soloist.

Robert Schumann wrote his Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 in 1849 for clarinet and piano though he allowed for performance on viola or cello, so it is perhaps no great stretch to consider then on the double bass, and certainly Cabrera's performance entirely makes the music his own. I was wonderfully taken with these performances, not just as an example of fine double bass playing, but for the sense of fantasy and freedom that Cabrera and Maj bring to the music. Cabrera plays with a lovely fluid sense of line, no hint at all of the stretching and moving his hands must have to do. The second movement is nicely fleet and light-footed, with moments of passion too, whilst the third movement is wonderfully impulsive.

With Cesar Franck's Sonata for violin and piano we surely move well away from the composer's conception? In fact, Franck himself sanctioned the version for cello and piano which was created by cellist Jules Desart. But there are also rumours that Franck originally started a sonata for cello and piano and only turned to the violin when he received a commission from Eugene Ysaye. In his booklet note, Cabrera admits that there are plenty of challenges to performing the sonata on double bass, not just technical issues but matters of slurring and articulation, and having to move notes into a different octave. So compromises must be made.

And yet. There is something passionately engaging and convincing about Cabrera and Maj's performance, they really bring out the romantic atmosphere and Cabrera really does make his double bass sing expressively and passionately. Throughout, I loved the fluid give and take between the two performers. Cabrera is darkly romantic at times, as might be expected, but he is also able to lighten the tone and provide us with elegant singing moments, along with a truly remarkable range of tone colours and timbres. I enjoyed this performance, not just as an example of truly stupendous double bass playing, but also as a finely expressive account of Franck's sonata.

Cabrera plays a double bass by the Italian luthier Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi (c1714-1787) who trained in Cremona and opened a workshop in Milan. The instrument is provided to him with the support of the Dutch Musical Instruments Foundation.

The recital's title, Cante Interno translates as inner voice, meaning the music that you hear inside you, before your hands find a way of making it happen. And what we hear here, is the fruits of Cabrera's highly expressive playing which seems know of no sense of limitation. As he moves from virtuosity to the extremes of romanticism, Cabrera's style is always winning and his is finely supported by Maj and Huang. 

Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889) - Introduzione e Variazioni sul "Carnevale di Venezia" 
Giovanni Bottesini - Gran duo concertante
Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951) - Andante
Serge Koussevitzky - Valse miniature
Serge Koussevitzky - Chanson triste
Serge Koussevitzky - Humoresque
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Fantasiestücke, Op. 73
Cesar Franck (1822-1890) - Sonata for violin and piano
Luis Cabrera (double bass)
Justyna Maj (piano)
Sylvia Huang (violin)
Recorded 22-23 November 2020 and 11-12 January 2021 at De Doelen, Rotterdam
TRPTK TTK0072 1CD [77:51}

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog

  • Beethoven’s Fidelio at Glyndebourne with Dorothea Herbert and Adam Smith, Tony's opera review
  • The Lost Codex of Avalona mix of old and new texts along with David Yardley's music in the style of Medieval and Renaissance to bring alive a mythic age - record review
  • Back with a bang: Donizetti's Roberto Devereux from Chelsea Opera Group with Helena Dix and Eleazar Rodrigues - opera review
  • Hi-jinks on the high-seas: Cal McCrystal's production of Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore at English National Opera - opera review
  • Everything is in the music: conductor Antonello Manacorda on returning to La Traviata at Covent Garden, balancing concert work & opera, & music-making being a journey rather than a single event - interview
  • Terrific sense of achievement: Bach's St Matthew Passion from Scherzo Ensemble, The Strand Consort, Mozaique Baroque Ensemble and a team of young soloists - concert review
  • A sense of exploration and discovery: Jommelli's Il Vologeso in a live recording from Ian Page and the Mozartists - record review
  • dream.risk.singSamantha Crawford and Lana Bode explore women's lives in song at Oxford Lieder Festival - concert review
  • A series of little gems: Reels, Drones & Jigs from the ensemble Perpetuo - concert review
  • Mad, messy and marvellous: Richard Strauss' Die ägyptische Helena at Fulham Opera - opera review
  • Pandemic, politics & pent-up ideas: I chat to composer Tim Corpus about his recent disc, and the challenge of balancing a varied career - interview
  • Birdsong on the River: Ailish Tynan, Ian Wilson and James Gilchrist at the Oxford Lieder Festival - concert review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month