The numerous works written for or inspired by Franco Petracchi are testimony to his mastery of the double-bass and his passion for realising and furthering its potential as a solo instrument. Born in Tuscany, he studied the bass with Guido Battistelli, as well as composition and conducting with Franco Ferrara, at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome. His premiere of Firmino Sifonia’s Concerto at the 1960 Venice Contemporary Music Festival garnered critical acclaim that hailed him as a new-born star of the bass.
Like other protagonists of the lower stringed instruments Petracchi has become well known in conducting, following some twenty years of orchestral playing. As a teacher he has worked in several European institutions, including the Walter Stauffer Academy in Cremona which he founded alongside Accardo, Giuranna and Filippini.
Unusually, Petracchi does not make studio recordings – a principle which maybe allows him to remain unstifled by the pursuit of artificial perfection in performance. The works cited here are thus recorded in concert, and show us a pleasingly neat and tidy performer at work.
Petracchi’s playing is stylistically conventional from today’s perspective. He uses the so-called French (overhand) bow-hold, its litheness and flexibility being well demonstrated in a fine 1994 recording of Bottesini’s Passione amorosa (in which he plays the second solo part). The considerable use of harmonics and other extended techniques integrate convincingly with more conventionally-stopped tones, although the two players show noticeable differences of stylistic approach. Martin’s playing (as in the opening movement) is characterised by a powerful and in some ways quite intrusive vibrato but considerable tonal warmth, whilst Petracchi’s sound is cleaner and sparer with a slightly nasal quality, but with more chaste use of the vibrato. This can be heard clearly when comparing the two meno mosso solos (Petracchi playing the second of these episodes).
The 1997 Schubert ‘Trout’ performance with the Aria Quartett is equally conventional, but Petracchi’s clean, tidy playing does well in counterpoising a lush post-Romantic tone from the upper string players. Zbinden’s Op. 10 Divertimento (1990) reveals a rigorous, even ascetic approach to this architectural and equally rigorous composition, with some very effective and tidy double-stops. This latter performance, in particular, demonstrates how Petracchi’s reputation is earned, and the high regard in which he is held by the dazzling pantheon of great players and conductors with whom he has worked.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist